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by Ramon Efren R. Lazaro / Correspondent
09-December-2009 Business Mirror
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THE government has finally approved the cultivation of Syngenta’s corn trait GA21 after a period of risk assessment, paving the way for the development of corn varieties with enhanced resistance to herbicides.

In a statement, Syngenta stressed that the assessments undertaken by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other agencies concerned with biosafety and environmental risks showed GA21 posed no harm to human health and the ecology.

The announcement came a day after China officially approved the cultivation of genetically modified corn and rice to ensure 30-percent increases in yields.

For rice alone, China hopes to harvest 500 million metric tons (MMT) by next year, raising the output to about 540 MMT by 2040.

Syngenta claimed the GA21 trait genetically enhances corn seeds with a built-in resistance to herbicides and offers growers with higher yields and reduced production costs.

Responding to the government approval, Syngenta said it would accelerate the development and introduction of better hybrid varieties and new traits.

This, the company explained, would redound to bigger harvests in the Asia-Pacific region, which is highly dependent on rice.

“This approval further strengthens Syngenta’s portfolio of high-quality seeds and allows us to continue bringing advanced agricultural technology to the growers in this region,” said Peter Pickering, Asia-Pacific regional head of Syngenta Seeds. Syngenta is one of the world’s leading companies with more than 24,000 employees in over 90 countries.

The company has been trying to develop better corn varieties to maximize food production.

It added: “Through world-class science, global reach and commitment to our customers, we help to increase crop productivity, protect the environment and improve health and quality of life.”

The Philippines actually allowed the propagation of genetically modified (GM) Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn in 2002, with commercial production commencing in 2004.

For this year, about 400,000 hectares of land are devoted to the production of Bt corn and other crops.

China produces about 20 percent of the world’s annual output of corn and approximately 30 percent of the yearly global rice harvest. It has a population of 1.3 billion.

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