China Ban Slows, Stops GMO Seed Roll-Out

by | Dec 1, 2014

China map2Syngenta and Dow AgroScience are tightly controlling US launches of new GMO seeds, and Bayer CropScience has decided to keep a new soybean variety on hold as the result of China’s import barriers of some US genetically modified crops, Reuters reports.

In November 2013, Chinese ports began rejecting US imports saying they were tainted with a GMO Syngenta corn variety, called Agrisure Viptera, which is approved in the US, but not in China.

Grain traders Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, along with dozens of farmers, have sued Syngenta for damages after Beijing rejected Viptera shipments, saying the seed maker misrepresented how long it would take to win Chinese approval.

The slowdown in Beijing’s regulatory process comes amidst growing consumer sentiment against GMO food in China and concerns among some government officials about excessive dependence on US food supplies.

China is a key market for the $12 billion US agricultural seeds business and for global grain traders and accounted for nearly 60 percent of US soybean exports and 12 percent of corn exports two years ago. Nearly 90 percent of corn in the US is genetically engineered, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

It is a common practice to mix different corn varieties in storage and during transportation, so a lack of approval for one GMO variety can put at risk of rejection large shipments that include approved GMO grains.

According to Frank Terhorst of Bayer, it can take up to 10 years and $150 million to develop new GMO seeds and further delays in Chinese approvals will raise concerns about Bayer’s future investment in new GMO products.

In the US, Maui County voters last month approved a ban on GMO crop production. Dow and other companies financially supported opposition to the ban.

However, in November voters in Colorado and Oregon voted down initiatives that would have required companies to label products containing GMOs.

Photo Credit: China via Shutterstock

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