SOURCE: Stevia First Corporation

Stevia First Corporation

March 18, 2013 09:00 ET

Stevia First Corporation Announces USDA Support for Stevia Herbicide Trials

SACRAMENTO, CA--(Marketwire - Mar 18, 2013) -  Stevia First Corp. (OTCQB: STVF) ("Stevia First" or the "Company"), an early-stage agribusiness based in California's Central Valley growing region and focused on the industrial scale production of stevia, the all-natural zero-calorie sweetener that is rapidly transforming the food and beverage industry, is pleased to announce that the USDA's IR-4 Program has committed support for stevia trials of the herbicide "clethodim," an important herbicide used in conventional agriculture throughout the United States.

Stevia First Corp., together with researchers from the USDA and UC Davis, have helped move clethodim into advanced status within the national IR-4 Program, part of the USDA's Specialty Crops Project (http://ir4.rutgers.edu/). In 2010, much less than 1% of global stevia leaf cultivation occurred in the United States, and as a result there are very few organic and conventional agrochemical products specifically identified as stevia leaf cultivation aids in the US. Currently, farmers must pursue off-label use exemptions for the non-labeled products already in use with other crops. In addition, stevia is increasingly capturing the attention of state agricultural regulators, but with little crop tolerance and chemical residue data available in the US, regulations governing agrochemical use for stevia cultivation are subject to potentially rapid change. The advancement of clethodim in the IR-4 program is an important step in providing stevia growers with safe, consistently reliable, and effective tools that enable long-term domestic stevia leaf production. 

Stevia First Corp. is currently using California grown stevia leaf for a number of ongoing R&D projects. Leaf is being used as feedstock for novel fermentation processes, to validate modern stevia extraction and purification methods, and to obtain new plant genomic information. Fermentation-based stevia production methods may bypass or greatly diminish the need for stevia leaf production, which by some estimates accounts for 70% or more of the total costs of traditional stevia extract production. Through deployment of the Company's fermentation and agricultural technologies, Stevia First Corp. aims to create a sustainable domestic supply of great-tasting stevia products that is not dependent on overseas stevia plantations. 

"These actions taken in concert with USDA and UC Davis researchers could help provide American growers with a potent tool for conventional stevia cultivation," said Robert Brooke, CEO of Stevia First. "We're excited to be a catalyst within the USDA's IR-4 Program, and to support both conventional and organic domestic stevia leaf production. Ensuring a robust supply of California stevia leaf is a broad strategic aim of ours, and this is but one of many examples where meaningful progress is being made today."

About Stevia First Corp. (OTCQB: STVF)
Stevia First Corp. is seeking to establish a vertically-integrated enterprise in the U.S. that uses technological expertise in fermentation-based stevia production and improves upon traditional stevia farming and processing methods. Stevia First's U.S. operations are located in the heart of California's Central Valley, one of the world's most productive agricultural regions. For more information visit: www.steviafirst.com

About the Stevia Industry
The market for all-natural, zero-calorie stevia sweeteners is expanding rapidly. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates stevia intake could eventually replace 20-30% of all dietary sweeteners. The total global sweetener market was estimated at $58.3 billion in 2010. For more information visit: www.steviafirst.com

Notice Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This news release contains "forward-looking statements" as that term is defined in Section 27(a) of the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended and Section 21(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Statements in this press release which are not purely historical are forward-looking statements and include any statements regarding beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions regarding the future. Such forward-looking statements include, among other things, projections of worldwide sales of stevia products, growth of stevia production and global markets. Actual results could differ from those projected in any forward-looking statements due to numerous factors. Such factors include, among others, the inherent uncertainties associated with new projects and development stage companies. These forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this news release, and we assume no obligation to update the forward-looking statements, or to update the reasons why actual results could differ from those projected in the forward-looking statements. Although we believe that any beliefs, plans, expectations and intentions contained in this press release are reasonable, there can be no assurance that any such beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions will prove to be accurate. Investors should consult all of the information set forth herein and should also refer to the risk factors disclosure outlined in our annual report on Form 10-K for the most recent fiscal year, our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and other periodic reports filed from time-to-time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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