* Agmin spokesman says still evaluating MIR 162 for import
* Does not give timetable for approval
* China has rejected some U.S. cargoes found to contain the
* Worries over further rejections expected to curb new
By Dominique Patton
BEIJING, Dec 6 China is still evaluating whether
to approve the strain of genetically-modified corn that caused
it to reject some U.S. shipments in the last few weeks, a
government spokesman said.
The country, one of the world's largest importers of the
grain, this week turned away five batches of U.S. corn after
quarantine authorities found they contained traces of Syngenta's
insect-resistant MIR162, which has not been approved
The agriculture ministry spokesman, Bi Meijia, said at a
press briefing on Friday that MIR162, also known as Agrisure
Viptera, was still being evaluated after U.S.-based Syngenta
provided additional information on the product in November.
"The company has applied for safety certification for import
for use in processing many times, and after an
(earlier)evaluation by our country's biosafety committee, we
considered their testing data and related materials to be
incomplete and that problems still existed," he said.
Bi said Syngenta had applied for approval as early as 2010,
but did not give a timetable for when the green light could be
Worries over further rejections could prompt a sharp decline
in new Chinese orders for U.S. corn, dragging on global prices
that have already dropped around 40 percent this year.
China was originally expected to approve MIR 162 imports in
March 2012, Syngenta spokesman Paul Minehart told Reuters this
week. The company has answered all Chinese requests for
information and is now waiting for Beijing to act, he added.
The strain is already shipped to Japan, South Korea, Russia
and even the European Union, which is notoriously slow in
approving GMO crop varieties.
China has expressed commitment to the use of GMO to help
improve yields and guarantee food security, already allowing
imports of 25 different GMO corn varieties.
But it has delayed approvals for domestic production amid
widespread public fears about the technology.
It allows the import of GMO soybeans, but only to be
processed into oil and animal feed ingredients, and also
produces a small amount of GMO vegetables and fruits.
Deflecting a question about recent media reports saying the
ministry's own kindergarten was completely GMO-free, Bi said
China's GMO development was still at an early stage and the
government's responsibility was to ease public worries and
misunderstandings about the technology.
"We and related government departments will strengthen our
propaganda work to let more people know what GMO is, understand
it and eliminate their worries about the safety of GMO food
products," he said.
China's state media has recently been working overtime to
persuade the public that GMO foods are safe, recruiting
scientists to debunk widespread rumours that GMO food
consumption had reduced sperm counts or altered human DNA.
At the same briefing on Friday, agriculture minister Han
Changfu said China was committed to maintaining its 95 percent
rate of self-sufficiency in grain, but would take greater
advantage of international markets to guarantee supply.
"As a country with a large population, and a big consumer of
agricultural products and grain, we basically want to solve food
safety problems domestically," he said.
"So we want to maintain a relatively high rate of
self-sufficiency, especially in cereals, and maintain that 95
percent rate. At the same time, we will actively use the
international market and international cooperation."