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DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- The decision by Dow AgroSciences to launch the Enlist Weed Control System in 2015 caught me by surprise. Certainly, farmers have been clamoring for new tools to tackle persistent and resistant weeds. After nearly two years of regulatory delays and lengthy comment periods, it's a relief to know where this technology stands, especially since growers are in the middle of making seed purchasing decisions.
Still, China's reluctance to give a stamp of approval to Syngenta's Viptera and Duracade insect traits -- as well as a handful of other corn and soybean traits -- has left the grain industry seething and put trait providers in a tough marketing spot.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) will hear arguments next week in Charleston, S.C., in support of petitions to consolidate federal lawsuits claiming that Syngenta's actions in marketing Viptera in essence destroyed the Chinese corn export market and severely harmed corn farmers and exporters. Plaintiffs include Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and farmers from at least 13 different states have filed suit.
With all this litigation swirling, Dow's decision to launch seemed gutsy. However, after a few days to noodle, I've decided the limited "stewarded launch" is actually thoughtfully constructed toward compromise.
Dow is both putting a fence around the distribution of Enlist hybrids and attempting to keep the gates closed. That process will start by hand-selecting growers to participate in 2015 plantings and require that those growers sign strict stewardship agreements.
Damon Palmer, Dow AgroSciences commercial lead-Enlist U.S., told me the company will work within their own seed brands (Mycogen, Pfister, Prairie Brand, Brodbeck and Dairyland) to identify U.S. customers that will follow protocols. The first requirement will be that the growers agree to feed all grain produced from Enlist corn on the farm where it is produced.
"Isolation areas of 660 feet will be required adjacent to Enlist cornfields, so we are managing that pollen as well," Palmer said. In addition, third-party audits will be conducted as an additional protective measure.
Palmer acknowledged that sensitivity to traits entering the market without key import approvals caused the company to engage the grain industry, as well as corn and soybean grower groups, in launch plans. "When you look at the feeding on farm, the isolation, the limited grower participation and the fact we will be going out in-season to do an audit, we feel like this program is different and unique than what has been done with other technologies," Palmer said.
For now, Enlist soybean will be limited to seed production only and Dow will oversee those operations from planting through harvest for 2015. Enlist Cotton traits have yet to be deregulated and will not be included in the 2015 launch.
We all know it's virtually impossible to completely corral a trait even in regulated trials. We can look to Oregon and the mysterious emergence of GE wheat as a perfect example.
Still, the real reason I like Dow's approach to this launch is these engaged growers will get to fine tune the special handling that will be required with Enlist Duo, the 2,4-D Choline/glyphosate proprietary herbicide that goes along with this trait.
Despite assurances about the new 2,4-D formulation and how it will stay on target, it is still 2,4-D. There will be sensitive plants and nearby crops that are not tolerant to consider. I've also heard too many farmers talk about this and other new technologies (HPPD and dicamba) as if the new trait systems will be another Roundup Ready.