Controversy continues over GM corn traits

Controversy continues over GM corn traits

China rejects more U.S. corn as discussions continue between Syngenta and U.S. grain groups.

LAST week, China's Tianjin municipality rejected another corn shipment from the U.S. after finding traces of the genetically modified (GM) trait MIR162, which is not approved by the country's agriculture ministry.

According to Xinhua News, the 21,800-ton shipment from the U.S. was to be used as animal feed.

The first traces of the trait were found in October in Shenzhen in China's Guangdong province, but this was the first case in Tianjin.

Syngenta's Agrisure Viptera, which has been on the market since 2011, contains the MIR162 trait, but Syngenta recently sparked controversy with the release of Agrisure Duracade, a new GM variety for 2014.

National grain companies and industry groups asked the company to stop sales of the product, saying it could create serious trade disruptions if traces of the trait continued to be found.

Syngenta instead announced a joint marketing program with Gavilon Grain for producers using the new variety (Feedstuffs, March 3).

In the latest development, Syngenta recently sent a letter to the National Grain & Feed Assn. (NGFA) and North American Export Grain Assn. to address their concerns.

In the letter, Syngenta explained that advancements in biotechnology have allowed U.S. corn growers to remain globally competitive and that the new Agrisure Duracade variety is particularly in high demand because of its "unrivaled control of corn rootworm."

"We fully recognize that the global trade in corn has been challenged by inconsistent timing mechanisms for approval of new traits, notably in countries which have recently emerged as importers of U.S. corn," the letter said in reference to China's slow progress in accepting the GM traits.

Syngenta estimated that between 250,000 and 300,000 acres of Duracade could be planted in what it has termed a "launch zone" that encompasses all or portions of 19 states in the eastern and western Corn Belt, with the launch zone boundaries representing either state lines or highways.

NGFA said Syngenta's response raises questions about how rigid those boundaries will actually be since, according to the letter, Syngenta is merely "encouraging" licensees, resellers and farmers to sell and plant Agrisure Duracade in only this region.

NGFA also expressed concern that the letter clearly placed legal responsibility on producers and grain handlers for stewarding Duracade to domestic users and export markets that have approved the trait for food, feed and further processing.

Specifically, the letter states: "The grower remains responsible for planting, harvesting and stewardship of seed and grain, just as members of the grain handling industry purchasing grain and reselling it remain solely liable for any risks or liabilities arising from their commercial activity."

The Agrisure Duracade trait has been approved for cultivation in the U.S. and Canada — although Syngenta recently stopped commercial sales in Canada — and has received import approvals from Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.

Syngenta has submitted and still is working to obtain import approvals for Agrisure Duracade in China, all 28 states of the European Union and, according to the letter, a "number of other markets, such as Colombia, the Philippines, Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Switzerland."

Volume:86 Issue:13

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