Syngenta risks fresh China corn dispute with unapproved trait
Whatever the cause, a total of 600,000 tons of U.S. corn and corn products have been denied entry, weakening U.S. prices and providing the latest example of GMO use disrupting agricultural trade.
Syngenta is not considering any steps to pull back Duracade from the market because it believes growers need access to new technologies, spokesman Paul Minehart said. The number of acres planted with seed containing the trait will be determined by seed production volumes and shipping time lines, he said.
In line with industry standards, Minehart said, Syngenta commercializes corn traits once it has approval from countries with "functioning regulatory systems."
"The regulatory systems in China and the EU are not considered functioning according to industry policy, meaning their decision-making processes are not predictable, are not completed in a timely manner and can be subject to political influence," he said.
While the European Union approved Viptera for import in 2012, it has not yet approved Duracade for import.
Syngenta applied for Chinese import approval of Duracade after U.S. authorities cleared the trait in February 2013. In theory, China's agriculture ministry has 270 days to make a decision. However, industry sources say it can take as long as two years after a strain is approved by the United States.
Syngenta won import approval for the Duracade trait from Mexico and South Korea in September and from Japan in August. It also has import approval from Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan.
"United States and China do not have synchronous approval process. If China does not change the current approval procedure, it remains an issue in future U.S. exports to China," said Li Qiang, senior analyst with Shanghai-based JC Intelligence Co Ltd, a private agriculture-consulting firm.
Until recent years, China's slower system for approving new GMO products was less of an issue, since it imported almost no U.S. corn. But shipments have surged in recent years, accounting for almost 14 percent of U.S. corn exports in 2011/12.
The increase has made it increasingly perilous for the trading industry to have China excluded from the list of countries whose approval is required to launch a new trait, some say. China mainly buys U.S. corn to feed livestock.
"China may not have a functioning approval system, but they represent the largest growth potential in U.S. corn exports," Feltes said. "Let's get real."
"Ticking Time Bomb"
John Latham, president of Iowa-based Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, has licensed the Duracade trait from Syngenta for this spring. But without approval from China, he says, U.S. corn growers have been wary of booking those seeds and that some elevators may refuse to accept corn with the trait.