Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member & Seed Related News

The Weekly Update will not be published for the next several weeks. The Weekly Update will return later in June.

The board of directors of the Texas Seed Trade Association will convene their summer meeting on July 8-10, at the Horseshoe Bay Resort near Marble Falls.

International Seed Federation (ISF): 13 organizations sign historic agreement to fight illegal seed practices

International Seed Federation


The International Seed Federation joined forces with 12 organizations representing and defending the interests of plant breeders worldwide to collaborate in the fight against illegal seed practices (ISP) through a historic memorandum of understanding signed today at the ISF World Seed Congress 2024.


The organizations participating are International Seed Federation , the AFSTA Seed Trade Association, the The Asia and Pacific Seed Alliance, Euroseeds, the Seed Association of the Americas (SAA), the Anti-Infringement Bureau for IP Rights on Plant Material (AIB), Breeders Trust, CIOPORA, CropLife International, Gestion De Licensais Vegetales GESLIVE SL, SICASOV Italia , Seed Innovation and Protection Alliance, and Seeds Innovation and Protection Initiative (SIPI).


With this MoU, the organizations aim to increase awareness about and implement Legal Seed and Plant Practices worldwide. These practices promote value creation in the agricultural and horticultural sectors and foster innovation for farmers and growers. Such innovation is crucial to the development of plant varieties that meet the current and future needs of plant breeders, including adaptation to the impacts of climate change and resistance to different pests and diseases.


“It is time that we act together to raise awareness about not only the magnitude but also the serious consequences that illegal activities in seeds may have not only economically to seed companies and farmers but also to consumers,” said Marco van Leeuwen, President of ISF.


Michael Keller, Secretary General of ISF shared: “The MoU was signed here today at our centennial congress to send a clear message: events like the ISF World Seed Congress must not become a platform for infringers to trade in illegal seeds. In fact, ISF has put in place a procedure to exclude entities and individuals who are proven to commit illegal seed practices from future congresses.”


ISP as “Illicit Trade in Food and Food Fraud”


Illegal seed practices may cover activities including counterfeit seeds, fraudulent labelling, intellectual property infringements, regulatory offenses, trademark infringements, and thefts of proprietary material. Although there is no hard data about the prevalence of illegal seed practices around the world, according to a recent survey conducted by ISF, they are widespread in many countries, affecting many crops, value chain actors and even consumers. Depending on the crops and geographies, illegal seeds may account for up to 50% of the market and have devastating consequences for farmers, who may face severe crop failures and economic losses. As a whole, these activities threaten the integrity of the seed sector and put farmers' livelihoods, food production, and food security at risk.

As part of awareness-raising efforts, ISF has written a chapter on the implications of illegal seed practices in a publication of the World Trade Organization entitled “Illicit Trade in Food and Food Fraud,” which was released today.


Illicit Trade in Food and Food Fraud


In this publication, WTO’s Doaa Abdel Motaal, Senior Counsellor, WTO Agriculture and Commodities Division, stated: “Illicit trade and fraud in the agri-food sector has a wide range of impacts on various stakeholders, including consumers, farmers, agri-businesses, regulators and other operators within the food industry. Although the global cost of fraud to the food industry is difficult to determine given the clandestine nature of the activity, annual estimates are in the range of US$ 30-50 billion (which does not include losses associated with illicit trade in alcoholic beverages)."


“We must remember that plant breeders are those who, thanks to research in plant improvement, work every day to provide solutions from the farmer to the consumer. We develop new varieties to, for example, fight climate change, produce more with fewer resources, or reduce food waste,” said Antonio Villarroel López de la Garma , Managing Director of Gestión de Licencias Vegetales (GESLIVE).


“We are clear that together we can work harder and better, and reach more people with our messages, which support the fight against illegal seed practices and ensure that the work we do every day is valued. We cannot forget that the seed is the first link in the value chain,” said Mary Ann Sayoc, President of the Seeds Innovation and Protection Initiative (SIPI).


For more information about the work of ISF against Illegal Seed Practices, contact Szonja Csörgő, s.csorgo@worldseed.org

OP-ED: MISGUIDED POPULISTS PUT AMERICAN FARMERS AT RISK

By Blake Hurst, a farmer and greenhouse grower in northwest Missouri. Former President of the Missouri Farm Bureau. As it appeared on Agri-Pulse


The passing of O.J. Simpson is a stark reminder that juries don't always get it right. Like most of us of a certain age, I remember where I was the day the O.J. verdict was reached.


I also remember the day that the verdict was reached in the first Roundup trial. Millions of dollars were awarded to the plaintiff, who blamed Roundup herbicide for his cancer. The decision was in its way as shocking as the O.J verdict and just as divorced from reality. The case was a warning shot across the bows for farmers, chemical manufacturers, and anybody who depends on technology developed later than the 14th century.


Roundup, perhaps the most widely used herbicide in the world and one that I've used extensively, successfully, safely, and dare I say, thankfully in my farming career, is surely the most tested herbicide in the history of chemical warfare against weeds and insects.


I won't bore you with listing the hundreds of studies that have found glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, safe or relitigate the bad science, bad faith, and conflicts of interest that have described the handful of studies that have reached the opposite conclusion. The safety of glyphosate is as well established as anything can be in science.


That first trial led to an avalanche of lawsuits. Bayer, the manufacturer of Roundup, has paid over $11 billion to 100,000 plaintiffs. Tens of thousands of lawsuits remain.


It is no surprise that Bayer is fighting back. Here in Missouri, a bill was introduced in the recent legislative session to make a small change in the way tort cases are brought. Similar bills were introduced in Iowa and Idaho. All three bills failed to pass. A similar bill has been introduced in Congress, but Congress is no longer much interested in passing legislation.


The bills simply say that manufacturers and marketers don't have to include a warning label, if the federal government has tested a product and found it safe. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in Roundup cases have argued that Bayer should have included a warning label informing consumers that Roundup might cause cancer.


This leaves Bayer in a pickle since federal laws prohibit changes to the label written by the EPA, which doesn't include a cancer warning, because the EPA knows that Roundup doesn't cause cancer.


To this non-lawyer, it seems that a warning label, especially one that has no basis in fact, might be advantageous to recruiting whatever few cancer victims haven't already signed up to sue Bayer.


Missouri is well known for its friendliness to the trial bar, especially in St. Louis, where Bayer's Missouri headquarters are located. In fact, according to a ranking compiled by the Tort Reform Association, St. Louis is among the 9 most favorable locations in the nation to bring suit against deep-pocketed defendants. This seems strange since the state of Missouri is solidly Republican, with a Republican supermajority in both the House and Senate.


Therein lies a story, one that has to be frightening for all of us who care about the future of the farming industry in the United States.


Populism has much to offer to rural residents and farmers, and we're quite comfortable with a political philosophy that seems to favor small companies and small places against their larger competitors.


We're all about favoring simple folks over urban elites, and who amongst us hasn't felt the sting of condescension that city dwellers often show for those of us without electric cars, fancy college degrees, or a corner office?


But today's version of populism is sometimes at odds with public policies that are important to farmers.


The first example that comes to mind is trade, where tariffs are almost uniformly popular, with both parties bidding to see who can start the biggest trade war, but the first reaction of almost every country that we target with tariffs is to place retaliatory tariffs against American farmers.


Previous populists, especially the prairie populists who represented the agrarians of an earlier age, understood that tariffs hurt the little guy and low-income consumers while protecting large industries that can't or won't compete.


The Texas agriculture commissioner just appeared in the pages of AgriPulse, arguing against federal legislation that would roll back the harm done to pork and poultry producers by California's Prop 12.


A group of conservative Republicans in the House has threatened to oppose the farm bill, if the farm bill addresses Prop 12. Agriculture can't survive with 50 different regulatory schemes, and if populism means that the new overlords of production agriculture are whichever fringe animal rights groups can buy enough signatures to successfully run ballot initiatives, farmers face a bleak future indeed.


Finally, the Roundup bill failed in Missouri because of opposition from the "Freedom Caucus" in the Missouri Senate, a group of Republican senators who've been large recipients of funding from the plaintiffs' attorneys. Seems that standing up for the little guy now means getting in bed with trial attorneys who have made hundreds of millions of dollars suing the maker of one of the most important tools in the Missouri farmer's toolbox.


An earlier populist famously urged farmers to "Raise less corn and more hell!" Present-day populists can certainly raise hell, and if they get their way, I'm quite likely to raise less corn.


Editor's Note: Hard to argue with the logic presented here by Mr. Hurst.

News Bits


U.S. corn and soybean planting both remain ahead of average. That's despite last week's heavy rainfall in some areas, including flooding, severe storms, and the loss of human life, with most forecasts showing a good near-term planting window for much of the region this week.


The USDA says 83% of U.S. corn is planted as of Sunday, compared to 89% a year ago and the five-year average of 82%, with 58% of the crop emerged, matching the normal pace.


68% of U.S. soybeans are planted, compared to 78% last year and 63% on average, with 39% emerged, compared to the usual rate of 36%.


48% of U.S. winter wheat is rated good to excellent, down 1% on the week, with 77% headed, compared to 69% on average.


88% of spring wheat is planted and 61% has emerged, both ahead of the respective averages.


60% of cotton is called good to excellent, compared to last season's first rating of 48%, with 59% planted, compared to 57% on average, and 4% squaring, just behind the usual pace.


78% of rice is in good to excellent condition, 4% less than last week, with 96% planted and 83% emerged, faster than average.


42% of sorghum is planted, compared to the five-year average of 37%.


48% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are in good to excellent shape, a week-to-week decline of 1%.


Source: National Agricultural Law Center


The full Eleventh Circuit, Atlanta, GA, has denied Monsanto's request for a review of a panel's ruling that allows a Georgia doctor to pursue claims against the company over Roundup weedkiller. The panel's decision revived the doctor's state law failure-to-warn claim, rejecting Monsanto's argument that federal pesticide labeling requirements preempted it.


Monsanto's petition for rehearing was denied, leaving the panel's ruling intact.


This decision could impact thousands of pending lawsuits alleging Roundup's failure to warn about cancer risks. To learn more about the question of failure-to-warn claims in pesticide injury lawsuits click here.

U.S. TRADE DEFICIT DOUBLES, SOYBEAN EXPORTS TO CHINA DOWN 23%, CORN DOWN 67%

Agri-Pulse reports:


The U.S. ag trade deficit continues to grow. USDA is now projecting it will reach $32 billion for fiscal 2024, up from $16.7 billion in FY23.


USDA's latest quarterly outlook raised the estimate for U.S. ag imports to $202.5 billion, while the forecast for exports was unchanged at $170.5 billion.


Take note: China is projected to drop to third place among U.S. ag export markets behind Mexico and Canada. China is now expected to buy $27.7 billion worth of soybeans, corn and other American commodities, a reduction of $1 billion from the February forecast, largely due to increased competition from Brazil.


The volume of U.S. soybean exports to China is down 23% so far this fiscal year compared to FY23. Year-to-date corn exports by volume are down 67%.


Republicans have been attacking the Biden administration over the ag trade deficit, which has several different causes, including declining commodity prices as well as increased consumer demand for imported fruits, vegetables and other products.


Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the constant criticism of China by U.S. policymakers is backfiring on American ag exports.


Editor's Note: It is hardly possible to believe that Secretary Vilsack really thinks criticism of the Chinese government is responsible for the growing trade deficit with China. This is laughable. China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria, and all our similar friends, do as much as they can, as often as they can to disrupt and damage the US economy - even at the expense of their own on occasion. We are NOT the only competitive exporter of agricultural commodities and there is little to prevent China from increasing their agricultural trade with countries like Argentina or Brazil, which they are doing. The answer is to stop buying manufactured goods from China - the US is still the world's largest consumer of Chinese made stuff. If we want any leverage with China we must start looking at country of origin labels and preferentially purchase goods made anywhere but China. This is typical of this administration's habit of laying "blame" at the feet of everyone except the perpetrator.

Transgenic expression of Rubisco Factors increases photosynthesis and chilling tolerance in maize

Boyce Thompson Institute


Maize is one of the world’s most widely grown crops and is essential to global food security. But like other plants, its growth and productivity can be limited by the slow activity of Rubisco, the enzyme responsible for carbon assimilation during photosynthesis. In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Botany, scientists from the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) demonstrated a promising approach to enhancing Rubisco production, thus improving photosynthesis and overall plant growth.


The study involved the transgenic expression of three key proteins, Rubisco Accumulation Factor 2 (Raf2) and the large and small Rubisco subunits. By overexpressing these proteins, the researchers increased Rubisco content, accelerated carbon assimilation, and boosted plant height in maize.


“Our findings demonstrate the potential of modifying Rubisco assembly to improve crop productivity,” said Kathryn Eshenour, a BTI researcher and first author of the study. “By altering the expression of these proteins, we can unlock maize’s capacity to photosynthesize more efficiently and grow more robustly, even under challenging environmental conditions.”


The research team found that Raf1 and Raf2, although acting at different steps of Rubisco assembly, could independently enhance Rubisco abundance and plant performance. This opens possibilities for further improvements by stacking the traits together, potentially leading to even greater photosynthetic capacity.


Interestingly, the transgenic plants also showed improved resilience to chilling stress, a common environmental challenge that can severely impact crop yields. The researchers observed that these plants maintained higher photosynthetic rates during cold exposure and recovered more rapidly after the stress subsided.


The team’s innovative approach holds exciting possibilities for other crops. Many staple foods with similar photosynthetic pathways to maize, such as sorghum, millet, and sugar cane, could potentially benefit from the approach used in this study, leading to improvements in photosynthetic efficiency and yield.


“This promising technology is one of several being used to enhance photosynthesis in crop plants,” said David Stern, a professor at BTI and lead author of the study. “By continuing to explore the intricacies of Rubisco assembly and its regulation, we can improve this part of a much-needed toolkit for enhancing photosynthesis across a wide range of crops.”


As food security continues to remain a pressing issue and the impacts of climate change intensify, the need for more productive and adaptable crops has never been greater. This research highlights the transformative potential of plant science-based solutions in addressing global challenges, exemplifying BTI’s commitment to shaping a future where agriculture thrives, biodiversity is preserved, and humanity benefits from a healthier, more sustainable world.


​​This work was supported by the intramural research program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Physiology of Agricultural Plants, Accession No. 1022304.

Factoids


Source: House Committee on Agriculture


WASHINGTON, DC -- Following last night's bipartisan committee passage of H.R. 8467, the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024 with bipartisan support, Chairman Glenn 'GT' Thompson (PA-15) issued the following statement:


"Critics have wasted a lot of breath telling me what can't be done, and last night the House Committee on Agriculture proved them wrong. I want to commend Reps. Caraveo, Davis, Sorenson, and Bishop for their willingness to see through the hyperbolic partisan rhetoric and help advance the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024.


I heard my Democratic colleagues loud and clear at markup, that there is a whole lot of common ground, and a few sticking points that can be resolved through conversation and negotiation. Great things can be accomplished when you don't surround yourself with redlines, and I am eager to continue our work with whomever wants to come to the table.


I implore Senator Stabenow to invite Ranking Member Boozman and Senate Republicans to the table, just as I have consistently done with House Democrats. The House Committee on Agriculture has proven there is a path to a bipartisan compromise that addresses the needs of rural America, enhances the farm safety net, and does right by our neighbors in need.


A farm bill is too important to let slip any further, including into next year. Farm and ranch families cannot wait." 


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The articles, views, and opinions expressed in the Weekly Update do not necessarily reflect the policies of the Texas Seed Trade Association or the opinions of its members.