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Syngenta To Go Ahead With Ethanol-Specific Corn

Amonth after receivi ng regulatory approva l , Swiss agricultural company Syngenta is starting to sign up U.S. farmers to grow its new biotech corn seed aimed at ethanol production, but expects to enrol fewer than 20,000 acres in a contracted growing arrangement this spring, a top company executive said Mar. 16.

Syngenta is meeting with growers in the western corn belt, primarily Kansas and Nebraska, to contract for acres for this growing season for planting of the new corn amylase, which Syngenta calls “Enogen.”

Approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Feb. 11, the corn seed is the first genetically modified output trait in corn specifically aimed at the ethanol industry.

The plant has been engineered to express an alpha-amylase enzyme beneficial to ethanol makers that aims to make ethanol production more efficient and save producers eight to 15 per cent in costs, Syngenta chief financial officer John Ramsay said at the Reuters Global Food and Agriculture Summit.

In signing up growers, the company is staying clear of key growing areas for corn used for food and livestock feed, amid concerns expressed from a variety of grain sectors about contamination by the new corn.

Ramsay said the company is committed to a “closed-loop” system for the corn, including dedicated transportation arrangements.

The appl icat ion for Enogen lagged with regulators for more than two years and Syngenta has actually scaled down its resources around the crop, but now is ramping that back up, he said.

“We’ll be able to plant this year,” Ramsay said.

The company has pledged to set up an advisory council of interested millers and others in the industry to avoid problems with contamination, though the company is still working on putting that group together.

Food makers and food safety groups have said products such as corn chips or breakfast cereal could be damaged if made from corn containing even small amounts of amylase.

Syngenta maintains there would be little if any impact on common food products.

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