CFIA approves Monsanto/Dow SmartStax corn

SmartStax, a new insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant corn seed trait combo developed by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, has picked up regulatory approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency toward a 2010 launch.

The new corn, which the two companies billed as the “most advanced, all-in-one corn trait platform” in the ag industry, includes resistance to a number of above-ground and below-ground insect pests as well as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready and Bayer CropScience’s Liberty Link traits for herbicide tolerance.

CFIA’s approval was announced Monday in a joint release from the two companies, which also announced SmartStax’s registration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto are also working with the regulatory agencies in key importing countries to have approvals for SmartStax in place before the 2010 U.S. season. These regulatory submissions are on track to support commercialization for the 2010 U.S. crop season, they said.

“As a result, the decisions by the EPA and CFIA will allow reduction of the typical structured farm refuge from 20 per cent to five per cent for SmartStax in the U.S. Corn Belt and Canada, and from 50 per cent to 20 per cent in the U.S. Cotton Belt,” the companies said.

SmartStax has come out of a cross-licensing agreement and research and development collaboration the two companies undertook in 2007.

The new seed technology is expected to be offered to corn growers on three million to over four million acres in its first year of availability, the companies said, which would make its launch the largest of a biotech-based corn seed product in ag history.

”Reduced refuge”

“The five per cent refuge for SmartStax will give farmers a tremendous advantage to increase whole farm corn yield five to 10 per cent,” Monsanto chief technology officer Robb Fraley said in the companies’ release Monday.

”This reduced refuge will be easier for farmers and will further reduce insecticide use while reducing grower risks and enhancing the long-term durability of the technology.”

The new product’s insect controls include protection against corn earworm, European corn borer, southwestern corn borer, sugar cane borer, fall armyworm, western bean cutworm and black cutworm from Dow’s Herculex-brand insect resistance, combined with Monsanto’s VT PRO system.

Below ground, the companies said, the SmartStax system resists Western, Northern and Mexican corn rootworms.

Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences said Monday they will cross-license, under royalty-bearing agreements, their respective above- and below-ground insect protection systems and the two weed control systems.

Monsanto and Dow added that they plan to offer other seed companies access to SmartStax through licenses. Monsanto said it will manage the licensing process for itself and as an agent for Dow AgroSciences.

SmartStax will be sold by Dow AgroSciences through its seed brands, including Mycogen Seeds, Dairyland, Renze, Brodbeck and Triumph, the company said. Monsanto will market it under its trait brand Genuity, and said it will make Genuity SmartStax “broadly available” through its DeKalb brand, regional brands, and licensed independents.

Dow also said it will use SmartStax as the platform to launch “future trait technologies” such as 2,4-D tolerance, and plans to roll out the first of those technologies in 2012.

Monsanto, meanwhile, said its Genuity SmartStax varieties will be treated with its Acceleron seed treatment system, which the company said is “designed to improve plant health and promote better standability throughout the growing season.”

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