(Adds Chinese approval of Pioneer soybean variety)
BEIJING/CHICAGO Dec 22 China has officially
approved imports of a type of genetically modified corn at the
centre of a string of lawsuits over U.S. grain shipments, seed
maker Syngenta AG said on Monday, ending uncertainty
after a five-year review.
China, the world's largest soybean importer and
fastest-growing corn market, also cleared imports of a DuPont
Pioneer soybean variety, confirming the last of three expected
approvals of GMO crops from different seed companies.
Beijing has been taking longer than in the past to approve
new biotech crops amidst growing consumer sentiment against GMO
food in China and concerns amongst some government officials
about excessive dependence on U.S. food supplies. The delay
upset global corn trading in the past year and cast doubt over
the future of seed companies' heavy investments in research of
GMO seeds, which can take up to 10 years and $150 million to
"It's positive we're seeing movement" in China's regulatory
system, Pioneer spokeswoman Jane Slusark said.
Syngenta's Viptera corn has been under scrutiny since late
last year, when China began rejecting U.S. corn shipments after
detecting traces of the unapproved strain, known as MIR 162. The
strain has been approved for planting in the United States since
2010 but lacked Chinese import approval.
The rejections, which later extended to distillers' dried
grains, a by-product of corn, roiled global prices and led
farmers and traders Cargill Inc and Archer Daniels
Midland Co to sue Syngenta for hundreds of millions of
dollars in damages.
China's approval of MIR 162 corn, engineered to fight pests,
covers grain and distillers' dried grains for food and animal
feed use, according to Syngenta.
Several large importers in China said they were unhappy over
what they saw as a lack of transparency in Beijing's handling of
the approval, which likely gave state-owned buyer COFCO an
unfair trading advantage. The government's decision also
reignited debates on the safety of GMO food on China's lively
The Pioneer product China approved combines a trait, known
as Plenish, designed to produce healthier oil with a trait
designed to control weeds. Beijing had previously approved the
Plenish trait and did not officially require approval for the
combined, or stacked, product, according to the company.
Pioneer sought approval as "a proactive measure in case
China changed its regulatory rules," said Slusark, the company
Bayer CropScience on Friday received Chinese
import approval for a GMO soybean variety seven years after
applying for acceptance.
(Reporting by Niu Shuping and Fayen Wong in Beijing and Tom
Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Clara
Ferreira Marques and Richard Chang)