US finds Bayer’s short GM corn can be safely grown, but hurdles remain


CHICAGO, June 7 (Reuters) – U.S. farmers can safely grow a new type of corn that Bayer AG (BAYGn.DE) genetically modified to be shorter than typical crops and better tolerate strong winds, the government said on Wednesday, in a win for the global farm chemicals and seeds maker.

Short-stature corn is among the latest crop varieties developed to withstand increasingly volatile weather associated with climate change, joining a growing list that includes drought and heat tolerant corn, soybeans and wheat.

Bayer said it still needs approval from the Environmental Protection Agency and importing countries before it can launch the corn in the U.S. The company expects the launch in the middle to later part of this decade.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture determined the crop is not subject to regulations because it does not pose a higher risk for pests than other types of corn.

“This plant may be safely grown and bred in the United States,” the USDA said in a notice.

Bayer has estimated North American sales of short-stature corn could reach as high as 1 billion euros.

The plants grow one-third shorter than current varieties in a bid to reduce losses from heavy winds that blow over crops and to make it easier for farmers to apply chemicals during the growing season.

U.S. farmers are already growing a separate, non-genetically modified version of short Bayer corn on about 30,000 acres this year as part of a large trial, according to the company. Bayer said it anticipates plantings of the non-GM version will double in its commercial launch next year.

Bayer is also working on a third type of short-stature corn, developed with gene editing.

Corn is the largest crop grown in the U.S. in terms of acreage planted and net value.

Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Leslie Adler