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Business digest: Genetically engineered seeds may be approved

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

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

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