BASF HAS announced that it would scale back commercial introduction of its Clearfield Production System for rice for one year.

Originally, ClearfieldRice was due to be introduced this spring.

“We recognize that this seed variety marks the entrance of BASF into the food industry,” said Chad LeBlanc, BASF market manager for rice. “That is a new segment for us, and given the current sensitivities and confusion with grains within the food industry, we decided to take a measured approach to this introduction.

“The long-term viability of this product means more to us than any short-term financial gains.”

Clearfield is a unique production system comprised of herbicide-resistant rice varieties, Newpath herbicide to manage red rice and a stewardship agreement with growers to ensure system sustainability.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted Newpath herbicide a two-year time-limited food tolerance March 5. While this clears the way for ClearfieldRice production in the United States, Canada requires that rice grain go through its feed and food approval process. Canadian clearance may not occur prior to the 2001 harvest, LeBlanc said.

Approval of ClearfieldRice is anticipated before the 2002 season. Canada already has authorized ClearfieldWheat, CL* Corn and CL* Canola.

“Canada is a critical market for U.S. rice and approval is one of our requisites for a commercial launch,” LeBlanc said. “We want to assure our growers that a market exists for ClearfieldRice before we ask them to plant the seed and become stewards of the production system.”

The stewardship agreement, LeBlanc added, is a key ingredient in the Production System and one of the crucial factors that led BASF executives to opt for a measured approach to commercial introduction.

“Stewardship is a trust that moves both ways,” he said. “BASF has pledged to be a responsible steward of its technology and grower-partners. Growers need to help us preserve the viability of this system. In turn, growers can expect BASF to give them the tools they need to implement the best-management practices and to ensure a ready market for ClearfieldRice.”

LeBlanc said the marketplace is sensitive to new food products because of current consumer concern regarding bio-engineered crops, and though Clearfield is not derived from transgenic technology, it is a new system for crop production.

“ClearfieldRice is not a bio-engineered crop,” LeBlanc noted. “The herbicide-resistant trait that sets Clearfieldrice apart is the result of traditional plant breeding techniques. It has the same cereal chemistry as rice currently on the market; it differs solely in that it offers growers unparalleled red rice control.”

Researchers at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center developed ClearfieldRice from rice plants that showed tolerance to imazethapyr herbicide.

Although the commercial introduction has been deferred for one year, the BASF rice seed partner, Horizon Ag, is coordinating seed production this spring in anticipation of a full commercial launch in 2002.

“Small field demonstrations to showcase the ClearfieldProduction System will be held through the rice region this year,” LeBlanc said, “and growers, millers, food companies and others will be invited to come tour the plots, ask questions and learn about ClearfieldRice.”

Additionally, BASF is planning commercial introductions of ClearfieldProduction Systems for wheat, sunflower and canola in the next few years.