After more than a year of seed industry buzz and speculation, Syngenta today officially announced that it will purchase the Advanta seed division from pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca for a price of $472 million. Advanta includes Garst Seed, a long-familiar brand to North American corn and soybean growers.

Combining Garst with Syngenta’s NK seed brand increases the company’s market share in the North American seed corn business to 11%. As part of the deal, Syngenta also gains access to rootworm-resistant corn through a Garst royalty agreement with Monsanto. The rootworm hybrids are slated to be ready by 2005. Before the Garst acquisition, Syngenta had stated it would not be able to offer rootworm-resistant corn any earlier than 2007.

In a separate transaction, Syngenta said it has bought the rights to use a glyphosate tolerant gene for corn from Bayer AG. The gene, called GA21, appears to do an end run around the Roundup Ready corn patent that seemingly gave Monsanto a monopoly on glyphosate tolerant corn.

Syngenta is playing up the timing of the Bayer and Garst deals. “You have to see the two acquisitions in conjuncture,” said Syngenta CEO Michael Pragnell. “Together, they form a strong basis for future growth of our U.S. corn business.”