(Corrects year of U.S. approval in fourth paragraph)
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO Feb 13 Bunge Ltd, one of the
world's top grain traders, signaled on Thursday that it will
refuse to handle corn containing a new genetically modified
Syngenta AG trait unless it is cleared by China.
"We handle crops that have been approved in major markets,"
Chief Executive Officer Soren Schroder told Reuters. "That is
Grain merchants must decide whether to buy corn from farmers
that contains Syngenta's Agrisure Duracade strain because seed
containing the trait is available for planting in the United
States for the first time this year.
The trait, engineered to fight damaging pests called
rootworms, won U.S. approval for planting and cultivation in
2013 but has not yet been approved by China or the European
Schroder said he did not believe Bunge had made a decision
yet on whether it will handle corn containing Duracade. Seeds
containing the trait will be planted this spring and harvested
for the first time in autumn, leaving major importers some time
to clear the product.
China, which accounted for almost 14 percent of U.S. corn
exports in 2011/12, constitutes a major market, Schroder said.
A debate over the commercialization of Duracade has split
the U.S. farm industry since China in November began rejecting
U.S. corn containing another unauthorized GMO Syngenta corn
trait, Agrisure Viptera. Some growers argue they need access to
new technologies, while exporters warn the introduction of
Duracade raises the risk for further trade disruptions.
Known as MIR 162, the Viptera trait has been awaiting
Beijing's acceptance for more than two years.
Bunge does not accept MIR 162 at its facilities and the
recent Chinese rejections have not had a material impact on the
company, Schroder said in an interview. He declined to say
whether Bunge had been successful in keeping MIR 162 out of its
Grain merchants would need to test every load of corn that
arrives at their elevators to ensure an unapproved strain did
not enter their supply, a time-consuming and costly task.
The National Grain and Feed Association and North American
Export Grain Association wrote to Syngenta last month, asking it
to suspend the commercial use of Duracade and MIR 162 in the
United States until China and other U.S. export markets have
granted regulatory approval.
Syngenta has declined, saying growers need access to new
technologies and that importing countries need to align their
regulatory processes. Duracade has import approval from major
buyers, including Mexico, South Korea and Japan.
"We agree with the trade organizations' statement that a
coordinated approval process is the right way to go," Schroder
said. "I think that is in the best interest of all involved,
including the technology providers."
Archer Daniels Midland Co, another major grain
trader, last week said it had only suffered a small impact from
Chinese rejections of U.S. corn cargoes.
Still, ADM has contacted to farmers to encourage them to
understand how their seed selection will impact their marketing
opportunities after the autumn harvest, Chief Operating Officer
Juan Luciano told analysts during an earnings call.
"Certainly, it's not business as usual any more," he said.
In 2011, Bunge North America, a unit of Bunge, refused to
accept MIR 162 because it had not been approved by major export
destinations. Syngenta filed a lawsuit challenging Bunge's move
and largely lost the case.
Syngenta, the world's largest crop chemicals company, has
said it commercializes corn traits in line with industry
practices, once it has approval from countries with "functioning
regulatory systems." The company has already "sold out" of its
limited quantities of corn seed containing Duracade.
(Additional reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by