PIONEER HI-BRED International and Syngenta Seeds just scored a big one for corn and soybean growers. These two major seed players announced a unique joint venture that will open up licensing of both companies' genetics and biotech traits. For Pioneer (a subsidiary of DuPont), this is a big first because it has never out-licensed its genetics. Now growers will be able to purchase other seed brands with Pioneer and Syngenta genetics and biotech traits.

Big deal

“This is a pretty big deal,” reports Tray Thomas, seed industry consultant with Context Network. “First is the breadth of the genetics. Pioneer has a good program and Syngenta has a good program. When put together, they will produce a very good program.”

The other piece of the deal is access to biotech traits. Pioneer receives a license to Syngenta's insect resistance technology, and Syngenta receives a license to Pioneer/DuPont's new Optimum GAT trait. The Optimum GAT trait with resistance to glyphosate and ALS chemistry won't be sold in seed until 2009. But Pioneer President Dean Oestreich says the new trait will be better than other glyphosate-resistant traits because it offers two modes of protection, a broad application window, and a high level of tolerance to both products.

The genetics and biotech traits from Pioneer and Syngenta will be licensed through the company Greenleaf Genetics. Syngenta originally formed Greenleaf Genetics in 2004 to license its own traits and genetics. As the joint venture is finalized, seed companies will go to Greenleaf to purchase a license to package Pioneer and Syngenta material in their own seed bags. Greenleaf is located in Omaha, NE, and expects to grow substantially to handle Pioneer's business too.

Win-win situation

Oestreich calls the arrangement “two titans coming together in the marketplace” to win growers. Syngenta Seeds CEO Mike Mack adds, “When the two of us together put our muscle behind GAT, it will be first in the market and Roundup Ready will have the No. 2 spot.”

Oestreich doesn't hide the fact that Pioneer wants to reclaim market share with this new joint venture, especially in the corn market. Context Network reports Pioneer held 32% of the corn market in 2005, compared to 36.5% in 2003.

Thomas says the joint venture between Pioneer and Syngenta is good for farmers. “From an American farmer's perspective, this has broadened the biotech base that farmers can tap,” he reports. “Farmers will be or should be excited. Those who wanted to use Pioneer genetics but wanted to use a local seed company can now do both.”