Home Audio Syngenta battles rootworm at home, biotech rejections abroad

Syngenta battles rootworm at home, biotech rejections abroad

Photo credit: Syngenta AG

To hear Brandon’s report on Syngenta’s efforts to open markets to its new biotech traits, click here.

SLATER, Iowa – Corn rootworm resistance in the United States is a growing problem. But the solutions at home are having big impacts on trade abroad.

Corn rootworm resistance has become such a pervasive issue that even tech news web site Gizmodo ran a story this week on the insect’s ability to overcome biotech traits meant to kill it.

According to Syngenta AG, the pest costs U.S. farmers over $1 billion each year, and Syngenta Solutions Development Manager Bruce Battles says it’s no surprise corn rootworm has become the problem it is today.

“Over the years, commodity prices have been good,” Battles says. “There’s been high demand for grain, and there’s been a shift for more continuous corn acres over the past several years; it’s a perfect environment for growing corn rootworm populations.”

Syngenta’s AgriSure Viptera trait (one line of defense against corn earworm, among other pests) found itself in hot water last year, or at least the ships transporting it did, when Chinese officials argued U.S. corn shipments contained the trait, which was not approved in their country.

Reuters reports China turned away about 2,000 metric tons of American corn.

Industry thinking is that rejecting biotech events is a front for China’s real motives: protecting the fledgling domestic corn industry there. But the domestic corn production sector here in the U.S. also needs protection from corn rootworm.

To prevent its new corn rootworm trait from going the way of AgriSure Viptera, Battles explains Syngenta is working to channel AgriSure Duracade, even with asynchronous approval of its traits in markets around the world.

“We’ve actually introduced a program,” says Battles, “a right-to-grow program, with Gavilon Grain so that we can have a followup on all the acres of [AgriSure] Duracade that goes out, and help and assist growers in channeling those in non-export markets, and still recover the same fair prices that they would on a normal grain market there as well.”

Battles notes AgriSure Duracade is on less than 300,000 acres this year, as the product is just now launching.