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UPDATE: China's rejection of biotech corn creates tension in U.S.

UPDATE: China's rejection of biotech corn creates tension in U.S.
Syngenta to continue sale of GM trait despite calls from U.S. grain groups to suspend sales.

CHINESE authorities have rejected some 600,000 tons of U.S. corn since November 2013 because the shipments contained MIR 162, a genetically modified (GM) trait that has not been approved for use there.

Last month, the National Grain & Feed Assn. (NGFA) and North American Export Grain Assn. (NAEGA) sent a letter to Syngenta asking the company to immediately halt commercialization in the U.S. of its Agrisure Viptera corn and Agrisure Duracade corn until the varieties have been granted required regulatory approvals/authorizations by China and certain other U.S. export markets.

Syngenta, however, recently said it will not suspend the sale of these two varieties.

According to the NGFA/NAEGA letter, the groups are concerned about the potential serious economic harm to exporters, grain handlers and, ultimately, agricultural producers — as well as the U.S.'s reputation to meet its customers' needs — from Syngenta's current approach to stewardship of Viptera. They expressed the same concerns for Syngenta's launch plans for Duracade, which they said risks repeating and extending the damage.

"There are numerous negative consequences incurred when the Chinese and other U.S. export markets are put at risk through commercialization of biotechnology-enhanced seeds before approvals for import into foreign markets are obtained," the groups wrote in the letter. "Such consequences may include reducing the value and demand for the U.S. farmers' products, preventing foreign consumer access to much-needed supplies, shutting off or increasing the cost of U.S. producers' access to some export markets for their crops, exposing exporting companies to financial losses because of cargo rejections and contract cancellations and, ultimately, diminishing the United States' reputation as a reliable, often-preferred supplier of grains, oilseeds and grain products in world markets."

The groups pointed out that trait commercialization prior to foreign regulatory approvals also has a negative impact on the overall U.S. corn and other grain value chains and significantly reduces U.S. agriculture's contribution to global food security and economic growth.

In a recent conference call transcript provided by Seeking Alpha, Syngenta chief operating officer Davor Pisk said the company had received a great deal of orders, particularly for the Duracade product. In fact, Pisk said the company has sold out of Duracade.

According to Pisk, the marketing campaigns for both traits are ongoing, and Syngenta is working in consultation with the National Corn Growers Assn. He did add that Syngenta will continue to pursue import approvals from China while urging the need to align international regulatory processes, which will represent a sustainable solution to the current situation.

"I hope it's obvious to everybody on the call that in terms of the issue that the grain trait has raised, doing anything to withdraw Viptera from the marketplace this year will have absolutely no impact at all on the amount of Viptera that is present in the corn supply chain that may end up in China," Pisk explained. "So, I think we recognize that it doesn't actually achieve anything to suspend Viptera sales given that we've got a history now of many years of sales in the U.S. and, of course, a number of years of successful shipments to China."

On Feb. 24, Consolidated Grain and Barge Co. (CGB), a primary supplier of barge and rail grains to the U.S. Center Gulf Export market, announced that it does not intend to accept crops containing Syngenta’s Agrisure Duracade until the trait has been approved by major export markets, inclusive of China, Egypt, Turkey, and the European Union. The news came after Archer Daniels Midland announced last Friday that it would no longer be accepting crops containing the GMO trait. 

While available testing methods have not yet been determined, CGB is considering its options in that regard and may test or require testing of incoming deliveries so long as the trait remains unapproved in certain export markets to which CGB supplies grain.

"CGB is committed and heavily invested in marketing U.S. grains to the world market,” said Greg Beck, vice president of grain division. “CGB supports GMO technology to increase yield and farmer efficiency; however, it is imperative that we take measured steps to protect against significant trade disruptions due to introduction of the trait prior to approval in our important export markets."

"U.S. producers are facing increased competition for their products from across the world, South America and the Black Sea most notably, and we consider it important to take steps enabling us to better supply grains that meet export requirements,” he added. 

Volume:86 Issue:07

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