UPDATE 1-Syngenta will sell GM corn not approved by China -USDA head

Fri Feb 7, 2014 2:10pm EST

By Roberta Rampton

ON BOARD AIR FORCE ONE Feb 7 (Reuters) - Syngenta AG , the world's largest crop chemicals company, has commitments to sell its entire supply of a genetically modified corn variety that is not approved by China, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Friday.

Vilsack said whether or not China eventually approves the corn, known as Agrisure Viptera or MIR 162, it was still being sold and that Syngenta has "basically have sold out" of its supply for the 2014 growing season.

Chinese authorities have rejected some 600,000 tonnes of U.S. corn since November because they contained MIR 162, which has not been approved for use there. Two leading U.S. grain groups asked Syngenta last month to suspend the commercial use of Viptera and Duracade, a new strain of corn that the company plans to roll out this year, until the Chinese approvals are sorted out.

Vilsack said he was understood there was an issue between Syngenta and China on Viptera, but he noted that China had recently approved a number of renewals allowing other corn and soybean products into the country.

"We have been working with the Chinese to try to get their regulatory process to be more accepting of biotechnology," Vilsack told reporters on Air Force One during a flight to Michigan.

Vilsack, who met with Chinese government officials in December, said the Chinese regulatory process was not as "mature" as that of the United States and that he believed there was pushback in the country about the technology.

China starts its reviews of genetically modified traits after the U.S. clears the technology, which can create a lag. Viptera received U.S. approval in 2010 and has been used in the United States, Argentina and Brazil for three years.

Syngenta shares, which this week sagged to their lowest since mid-2012, ended at 314.50 Swiss francs, up 1.78 percent, in European trading. Chicago corn futures were fractionally higher at $4.43 3/4 per bushel.

Vilsack was traveling with President Barack Obama to a signing ceremony for a U.S. farm bill that received final congressional approval this week, and a speech about the rural economy at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

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