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//The Triangle Business Journal, based in Raleigh, NC (close to Bayer CropScience´s US headquarters) picks up our campaign on glufosinate and LibertyLink seeds (more info)://

Aug 16, 2010, Triangle Business Journal

Brazil says no to corn seed, dealing blow to Bayer crop unit

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – A Brazilian court decision barring Bayer CropScience’s LibertyLink brand of corn seed is putting a kink in the company’s efforts to position its genetically modified line of seeds as a global alternative to those of market leader Monsanto.

The Environmental Justice do Parana, a Brazilian federal court, on July 27 issued a ruling prohibiting Bayer CropScience from marketing LibertyLink corn seed anywhere in Brazil. Judge Pepita Durski Tramontini wrote in the opinion that the decision was based on the absence of a monitoring plan for the transgenic crop after it is grown from the seed and sold as a finished product.

Bayer says the ruling effectively bans not only the seed but any corn grown from the seed.

Bayer CropScience, a division of German multinational Bayer, has its North American headquarters in Research Triangle Park. Spokesman Jack Boyne says the company has complied with Brazilian law and came up with a monitoring plan in 2007. He says the Brazilian decision does not affect the company’s business in the United States.

LibertyLink seeds are genetically modified to be tolerant of herbicides containing the active ingredient glufosinate. Bayer CropScience markets herbicides containing glufosinate under brand names including Liberty, Rely, Basta and Ignite. Combined, they generated more than $425 million in 2009 sales for the company.

Bob Hartzler, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, says glufosinate is very effective in killing weeds. Without the genetic modification in the LibertyLink seeds, glufosinate would kill the crops as well. The product is an alternative to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds, which are resistant to that company’s Roundup herbicide made with the active ingredient glyphosate. Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides generated $3.5 billion in 2009 revenue for Monsanto.

The Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, a Dusseldorf, Germany, watchdog group critical of Bayer, has been campaigning against LibertyLink seeds. Cultivation of genetically modified seeds leads to mixing of genetically modified crops with non-modified crops, spokesman Philipp Mimkes says. The group also is critical of the glufosinate herbicide, which Mimkes says is toxic to those who apply it to crops. Mimkes says the coalition welcomes the decision in Brazil, and though the group focuses on Bayer, problems with Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant crops are similar.

U.S. litigation involving LibertyLink has been based on economic claims. Bayer CropScience currently faces lawsuits from U.S. farmers claiming losses when LibertyLink rice was released to the market, commingling with rice that did not come from genetically modified seeds. Farmers claim losses from being unable to sell their rice.

Alan York, professor of crop science at N.C. State University, says corn and cotton seeds that are resistant to glufosinate have been commercially available in the United States for several years. LibertyLink soybeans were introduced this year. York was unfamiliar with the Brazilian decision, but he says in the United States it’s important that growers have the option of using glufosinate on corn and other crops. It means more competition and more options for growers to manage weeds. York says widespread use of Roundup Ready seeds and Roundup herbicide has led to the emergence of more Roundup-resistant weeds.

“We are at the point in the U.S. where glyphosate resistance in weeds is one of the most significant problems we face in grain and cotton production,” York says. “Glyphosate-resistant weeds means we need other tools, such as LibertyLink technology, more than ever.”

But Iowa State’s Hartzler says it’s not a simple matter of switching to a different seed and a different herbicide. He says the price of Roundup has fallen over the past year since coming off patent and facing generic competition. Even though LibertyLink provides an effective alternative, many farmers still choose the less expensive Roundup Ready seeds and glyphosate herbicides.

York doesn’t see the Brazilian court as having an adverse impact in the U.S. market, where LibertyLink is cleared for use. Globally, though, it could be a setback for Bayer because the company wants to sell its technology in as many markets as possible.
Frank Vinluan