* Cargill not taking Syngenta's GMO corn at wet mills
* Cargill awaiting regulatory approval from EU
* ADM not taking unapproved GMOs without written notice
* Bunge North America said earlier not taking the corn
(Recasts, changes headline, adds ADM comments, adds byline)
By Christine Stebbins and Karl Plume
CHICAGO, Sept 1 Major U.S. grain companies have
tightened curbs on genetically modified grains not yet approved
by foreign markets, with some singling out one popular corn
variety made by Syngenta SYNN.VX, fearing any trace of the
biotech grain in shipments could shut off export markets.
The action was taken just weeks before the U.S. corn
harvest, when this variety of corn could enter market
U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill [CARG.UL] said on Thursday
it will not accept Syngenta's genetically modified Agrisure
Viptera corn at its North American wet milling plants until the
corn variety receives regulatory approval from the European
Agricultural processor Archer Daniels Midland (ADM.N) did
not single out any specific corn varieties, but said it would
only accept grain approved for commercial use in the European
Union, which would exclude Viptera, unless given prior written
notice to ensure its supply chain integrity.
Another major grain handler, Bunge North America (BG.N),
has also barred Agrisure Viptera from its facilities, awaiting
additional export market approval, particularly from China -- a
top U.S. grains and oilseed customer.
"Cargill strongly values its right to accept or restrict
products of agricultural biotechnology, dependent on the
approval status in export markets and needs of our customers,"
Cargill spokeswoman Nicole Reichert said.
"Consistent with our long-standing wet milling position,
Cargill cannot accept Viptera at these facilities until it has
received regulatory approvals in the EU," she said.
Cargill and ADM said their grain elevators will accept
Viptera but only with written notification ahead of delivery.
"We need the advance written notice so that we can make
merchandising decisions regarding the grain and so that we can
ensure the integrity of our supply chain and our exports," ADM
spokesman Roman Blahoski said.
U.S. processors and exporters became hypersensitive to
issues related to GMO corn after a variety unapproved for food
use known as Starlink was discovered in a U.S. shipment to
Japan in 2000. Sales to the biggest U.S. customers at the time
-- Japan and South Korea -- dried up overnight.
The subsequent tracing, sorting, testing, separating and
certifying of GMO cost the industry millions of dollars.
Cargill operates eight wet-corn milling plants in North
America, all in the United States, with the largest located in
Blair, Nebraska. The Blair plant accepts some 100 million
bushels of corn annually to produce ethanol, food products and
The genetically modified Viptera corn variety, designed to
protect the crop against insect damage, represents less than 2
percent of the U.S. corn crop, Syngenta said.
The variety has been approved for shipment to several major
corn export destinations, including Australia, Brazil, Canada,
Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines and Taiwan.
"China has not yet approved it, but we expect approval by
China by the end of the first quarter next year," Syngenta
spokesman Paul Minehart said.
Syngenta Seeds, a unit of the world's largest agrochemicals
company, Syngenta AG, filed suit against Bunge on Aug. 22 for
refusing to accept Agrisure Viptera corn.
Syngenta said it had been in contact with U.S. ethanol
plants to identify "suitable outlets" for the Viptera corn.
"With tight corn supply this fall, we expect ethanol plants
will have strong interest in taking corn with the Agrisure
Viptera trait but we ask that growers notify destinations that
their grain contains the Agrisure Viptera trait before
delivery," Minehart said.
(Additional reporting by Sam Nelson in Chicago and Carey
Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)