Save on seed, chemicals

Technology-enhanced seed with the Asgrow brand will be lower in price next year. Low commodity prices have prompted Monsanto to lower prices on Roundup Ready soybeans, YieldGard corn and Roundup Ready corn, while holding other seed prices steady. In addition, Asgrow will offer special financing and an early-cash program for 2000 seed purchases.

Special savings programs also are available from Pioneer to qualified customers buying seed for next year's crop. One financing program offers an interest rate that is 2_1/2% below prime to customers who increase their Pioneer purchases 10% or more from 1999 to 2000. The low interest rate also is offered to customers plant-ing 90% of their corn and soybeans to Pioneer hybrids and varieties.

Pioneer customers can lower their financing interest rate to 3% below prime if they purchase DuPont-approved corn herbicides on 75% of their corn acres.

Customers making early purchases, before January 8, 2000, can take advantage of a 7% discount. They earn a 5% discount on purchases made by February 12 and a 2% discount on purchases made by April 30. Quantity purchases also qualify for another savings program based on total dollars spent on Pioneer products.

More on New Holland- Case merger

The Department of Justice announced that it has required New Holland to sell its 4-wd tractor (Versatile) and large 2-wd tractor (Genesis) businesses and Case Corporation to sell its interest in its hay tool business. This will eliminate the department's antitrust concerns involving New Holland's proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of Case. Without the divestitures, the merger would likely result in higher prices for this machinery. (Look for details in next month's issue.)

Will traditional seed make a comeback?

The million-dollar question today is, "Will U.S. seed companies have enough seed if growers switch to varieties and hybrids that have not been genetically modified?" The answer from one seed company source is: no, if growers turn their backs on Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans, but yes, if they shun Bt corn.

RR soybean varieties should still dominate the marketplace because they cost so much less to produce than traditional varieties, suggests Jerry Harrington, sales public relations manager for Pioneer. He claims that a traditional soybean program costs $21/acre to control weeds compared with $16/acre for RR soybeans.

Pioneer anticipates a significant demand for Bt corn hybrids. Harrington says that growers faced few problems marketing genetically modified (GM) corn this fall, which will encourage continued use of the products. Plus, 80% of the U.S. corn crop is still consumed in the U.S. where GM and non-GM crops are easily blended.

"We know there is anxiety among growers," Harrington says. "But there is a wide market for all grains. We recommend talking to your elevator operator."

What's new on the GM front

The furor over genetically modified (GM) grains continues.

British brewers do not want GM corn in their beer. The Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association recently assured British beer drinkers that GM corn is not used in its beers. A small amount of corn instead of barley malt is used in British beers to create different taste, body and head characteristics. The group noted that modified DNA probably would not survive a brewing process anyway.

Japanese beer brewers followed suit on the GM issue. The group stated it would stop using GM corn in beer as well.

The safety issue of GM products continues to draw debate. Recently, an article in the publication Nature generated questions about the policy of "substantial equivalence," which regulators use to determine food safety. They say that if a food is substantially equivalent to its natural antecedent, it can be assumed to pose no new health risks. The article, written by researchers at the University of Sussex, UK, disputed this theory saying it benefits manufacturers rather than consumers, and it called for tougher toxicity-based tests instead.

A later issue of the same publication contained rebuttals from other researchers. One letter from two researchers from the University of Edinburgh, UK, and the University of Oxford, UK, called the first article flawed. The researchers claimed toxicity testing is "ill-informed logic" that obstructs new technology. Derek Burke, the former chairman of the UK advisory committee on novel foods and processes, added that research shows GM soybeans are as safe as conventional soybeans. He calls the Nature article outdated and inaccurate.