SmartStax corn gets Japanese import approval

A new eight-trait herbicide-tolerant, insect-resistant corn developed by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences and approved for planting next year in the U.S. and Eastern Canada will be allowed for export to Japan.

Monsanto and Dow said in a release Friday that Japan has granted full regulatory approval for imports of the companies’ new SmartStax corn.

Canadian and U.S. regulators approved the new corn July 20 for production. “With these approvals, SmartStax can be produced and planted in the U.S. and Canada and grain can be imported to Australia, New Zealand and Japan,” the companies said Friday.

“As the world’s leading corn-importing country, Japanese approval is a significant milestone to ensure full market access to food and feed derived from SmartStax,” Jerry Hjelle, Monsanto’s vice-president of regulatory affairs, said Friday.

Monsanto and Dow “are working closely to obtain the few remaining import approvals ahead of the 2010 launch,” Hjelle added in a release.

Monsanto and Dow plan to launch SmartStax on three million to four million acres or more in 2010, the companies said. Monsanto will bring the corn product to market as Genuity SmartStax, while Dow said it would offer SmartStax through its seed brands such as Mycogen, Dairyland, Renze, Brodbeck and Triumph.

The corn includes traits for insect control both above- and below-ground as well as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready and Dow’s Liberty Link genetics for herbicide tolerance.


Japan’s decision comes as green groups in Canada protest the new corn’s approval by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as well as CFIA’s approval for smaller required areas of refuge crops to be planted around fields of SmartStax.

The same groups, including Greenpeace Canada and the Council of Canadians, among others under the umbrella of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, also called Wednesday on the federal government to “immediately withdraw” authorization for SmartStax until Health Canada undertakes “exhaustive and independent tests.”

The groups claimed Wednesday that Health Canada hasn’t assessed the human health safety of SmartStax, as per the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius guidelines for food safety in multi-trait crops.

“Health Canada did not conduct or require any testing for this new eight-trait GE corn and did not even officially authorize it for release into the food system,” network co-ordinator Lucy Sharratt said in a release.

“Health Canada has entirely abdicated its responsibility and just shrugged off the potential health risks of eating eight GE traits in one corn flake.”

Codex Alimentarius’ guidelines, developed by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (PAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that safety assessment of a modified microorganism should be performed “on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature and extent of the introduced changes.”

Conventional toxicology studies, Codex says, “may not be considered necessary where the substance or a closely related substance has, taking into account its function and exposure, been consumed safely in food.”

In other cases, Codex’s guidelines suggest, the use of “appropriate conventional toxicology or other studies” on a new substance may be needed. Effects of a new recombinant-DNA microorganism on the “food matrix” should be considered as well, Codex recommends.