Business digest: Genetically engineered seeds may be approved

January 3
AGRICULTURE
Engineered seeds may be approved

The federal government on Friday proposed eliminating restrictions on corn and soybean seeds genetically engineered to resist a common weedkiller, a move welcomed by many farmers but worrisome to scientists and environmentalists concerned that it could invite growers to use more chemicals on crops.

The herbicide known as 2,4-D has had limited use in corn and soybean farming because it is toxic to the plants early in their growth. The new seeds would allow farmers to use the weedkiller throughout the plants’ lives.

Farmers have been eager for a new generation of herbicide-resistant seeds because of the prevalence of weeds that have become immune to Monsanto’s widely used Roundup. But skeptics are concerned that increased use of 2,4-D will lead to weeds acquiring resistance to that chemical, too.

Most corn and soybeans grown in the United States are already genetically engineered, largely to resist Roundup, which was introduced in 1976.

The federal Department of Agriculture’s plant-inspection agency concluded that the greatest risk from the new seeds developed by Dow AgroSciences was increased use of 2,4-D, which could hasten the evolution of weeds resistant to it.

The public has 45 days to comment on the USDA report, published Friday, as part of the deregulation process. The Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a separate review on the impact of expanded use of 2,4-D, although it previously found the herbicide safe.

Dow AgroSciences has asked the USDA to deregulate one corn and two soybean varieties. The corn resists 2,4-D and glyphosate, the generic form of Roundup. Both soybean varieties resist 2,4-D but differ in their immunities to other herbicides.

— Associated Press

Communications
BlackBerry suing over iPhone add-on

BlackBerry said it had filed a lawsuit against a company co-founded by “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest that offers a keyboard that can be attached to some of Apple’s touch-screen iPhone 5 models.

The company, Typo Products, is taking pre-orders for the $99 keyboard, which features angled miniature keys similar to those used on many of BlackBerry’s devices.

Canada’s BlackBerry, a once-dominant smartphone maker that has lost market share to the iPhone and other touch-screen devices, said Typo’s keyboard infringes its own design.

The allegation has not been proven in court. Typo and Seacrest could not immediately be reached to comment on the legal proceedings.

“We are flattered by the desire to graft our keyboard onto other smartphones, but we will not tolerate such activity without fair compensation for using our intellectual property and our technological innovations,” Steve Zipperstein, BlackBerry’s chief legal officer, said in a statement.

— Reuters

Also in Business

Detroit asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to consider bringing charges against two banks for costly interest-rate swaps that factored in the city’s record-setting municipal bankruptcy case, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr testified Friday. Orr said Detroit asked the SEC to investigate its deals with UBS and Merrill Lynch Capital Services, a unit of Bank of America, for interest- rate swaps to hedge risk on some of the $1.4 billion of pension debt Detroit sold in 2005 and 2006. Orr inquired about the issue in 2013, but the SEC said its four-year window to examine prior ­securities deals had expired, Orr’s spokesman, Bill Nowling, said in an e-mail. An SEC spokeswoman declined to comment. Spokesmen for UBS and Bank of America also declined to comment.

Daily-deals company Living­Social plans to sell the 13.8 million Groupon shares that it acquired from selling the Korean ­e-commerce company Ticket Monster to its competitor, according to a regulatory filing from Groupon on Friday. The Chicago company said it will not receive any proceeds from ­LivingSocial’s stock offering. ­LivingSocial declined to comment on the stock sale. Groupon said Thursday that it had completed its $260 million acquisition of Ticket Monster. It paid LivingSocial $100 million in cash and $160 million in stock for the business.

Shares of cybersecurity provider FireEye rose 39 percent Friday after the company bought computer forensics specialist Mandiant for $1 billion in a deal that underscores increasing consolidation in the red-hot sector. The shares’ jump to $57.02 added about $1.7 billion to FireEye’s market value, which has more than doubled since the company went public in September.

Liberty Media wants to take full ownership of Sirius XM in a deal that would value the satellite radio service at nearly $23 billion. Liberty Media, a Colorado-based media holding company, already owns 53 percent of Sirius XM Holdings’ outstanding shares, according to a regulatory filing. Liberty is offering to exchange some of its Series C common stock for the rest of Sirius XM’s shares.

— From news services

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