| BUENOS AIRES
BUENOS AIRES Aug 29 Argentine farmers expect
China to soon approve their one remaining variety of genetically
modified corn yet to be certified for import by the
commodities-hungry Asian country.
Corn growers across Argentina's vast Pampas farm belt want
to push quickly into the Chinese market while fellow grain
exporter Brazil is stuck on the sidelines, waiting for Beijing
to approve its genetically modified corn varieties.
China, whose corn market has long been dominated by the
United States, allowed its first major Argentine shipment of the
grain to enter the country earlier this month.
Traders in Buenos Aires said the 60,000-tonne cargo included
some corn of the MIR-162 strain, which has not yet gotten
approval from Beijing. But apparently not enough, if any,
MIR-162 was in the cargo to cause problems with Chinese customs.
"It's called asynchronicity," said Fabiana Malacarne,
biotechnology chief at Argentina's ASA seed industry chamber.
"Importing countries permit a low-level presence of non-approved
The Chinese have signaled likely approval of MIR-162 imports
later this year or in early 2014, she added.
"The only issue with China is MIR-162 ... which is tough to
detect," said an Argentina-based corn trader with a major export
company who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
There is broad scientific consensus that food derived from
genetically modified crops poses no greater risk than that from
conventional ones. However, advocacy groups argue the risks of
GMO food have not been adequately identified.
Most Argentine corn is genetically modified. A small amount
was allowed into China late last year as a test case under a
China-Argentina GMO deal signed in February 2012.
CHINA WANTS MEAT
Chinese demand is rising for grain-based pork, cattle and
chicken feed as the country's expanding middle class wants more
meat in its diet.
The United States is the world's top corn exporter, followed
by Brazil, which is lobbying China to approve its GMO corn.
Argentina, which ranks third, clinched an import deal with China
Various corn varieties are mixed in Argentina's farm-side
silos before being trucked to the country's export hubs, making
it hard to know which GMO strains are contained in which
Aside from MIR-162, all corn strains grown in Argentina -
MON-810, T-25, Bt-11, NK-603, TC-1507, GA-21, MON-89034,
MON-88017, Bt-176 and MIR-604 - are already approved for import
by China, Malacarne said.
Companies such U.S.-based Monsanto and Swiss
agrochemicals group Syngenta stand to gain from more
use of seeds engineered to increase yield and allow growers to
plant in areas lacking optimum corn-growing weather.
"Now that the mechanics are flowing and the first big cargo
has gotten into China, we expect future shipments to go
smoothly," said Martin Fraguio, head of Argentine corn industry
China imports corn mainly from the United States.
Besides bilateral agreements, China requires safety
certificates for GMO corn imports. This month's landmark
Argentine corn shipment was imported by Chinese state-owned
trading house COFCO.
Futures traders see China as a wild card in their attempt to
pencil in price projections.
Chicago corn prices have fallen 28 percent since January
after hitting record highs during the North American drought in
the summer of 2012. Many analysts and traders expect prices to
fall further on prospects for a U.S. bumper crop this season.
Argentina's 2012/13 crop is harvested, and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture estimates it at a record 26.5 million
tonnes. Oscar Solis, Argentina's deputy agriculture secretary,
told Reuters last week that the crop was likely to come in at
32.1 million tonnes, with between 22 million and 24 million
tonnes going for export.