BISMARCK – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has asked federal officials to expedite a decision on whether producers can plant a new corn variety developed to enhance ethanol production.

“Growers are now making their cropping decisions for the 2011 growing season,” Goehring said in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “In order to eliminate uncertainty and allow corn growers to finalize their plans for the upcoming season, I ask that USDA-APHIS prioritize and finalize its review of the petition to deregulate amylase corn. A timely response will allow our growers to determine whether alpha amylase corn will be an available option for planting this spring.”

The genetically engineered corn variety, known as Enogen, produces an enzyme, alpha amylase, that breaks down starch into fermentable sugars.

“This trait has great benefit to the ethanol industry since it would dramatically increase efficiency of the fermentation process,” Goehring said. “This will create efficiencies for the renewable energy industry and advance our ability to offset our dependence on foreign energy.”

Goehring said USDA-APHIS received an environmental assessment on Enogen more than a year and a half ago. The manufacturer, Syngenta Seeds, petitioned USDA-APHIS for a non-regulated status for the genetically engineered corn line in 2005.

Canada approved Enogen for cultivation in 2008, following extensive review. It is approved for import into Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia and Taiwan.