| March 24
March 24 The U.S. agriculture industry must
devise a system to handle genetically modified crops barred by
major importers because unapproved varieties will comprise an
increasing portion of production in coming years, top executives
at grain merchant Gavilon Group LLC said.
Omaha-based Gavilon, owned by Japanese trading house
Marubeni Corp, broke from the world's top grain traders
last month by agreeing to accept a new type of GMO corn not
approved by China or the European Union. Both countries are
major grain buyers.
The corn, a Syngenta AG variety called Agrisure
Duracade, is available for planting for the first time in the
United States this year. Gavilon agreed to buy the grain from
U.S. farmers as part of a deal with Syngenta, while major
exporters like Archer Daniels Midland have refused out
of concern it will accidentally be sent to China or the EU.
Gavilon will greatly reduce the risk that Duracade corn will
be inadvertently mixed with approved varieties by working with
farmers and by organizing a network of grain elevators and
markets that will accept the grain, said Greg Konsor, the
company's general manager of grain operations, in a telephone
interview on Friday.
The industry must learn how to efficiently handle unapproved
varieties because Duracade will not be the last one to hit the
market, he added.
"We've got to figure a solution out to make sure we're not
handcuffing the U.S. corn farmer or the seed companies that they
can't get their product to market sooner," he said. "At some
point in time the industry has to deal with it, and I think now
is the time to deal with it."
Concerns about Duracade have captivated the U.S. farm sector
this year because China has rejected hundreds of thousands of
tonnes of U.S. corn containing another unauthorized GMO Syngenta
trait, Agrisure Viptera, since November. Known as MIR 162, the
trait has been awaiting Beijing's approval for more than two
On March 10, Syngenta halted commercial sales of Duracade
corn in Canada because major importers had not approved the
Gavilon agreed to accept it because U.S. farmers want to
plant the new variety, which is engineered to fight pests, Chief
Executive Greg Heckman said. The company, the third-largest U.S.
grain handler by storage capacity, is equipped to direct it to
appropriate markets, he said.
"Is it always easier if everything is as fungible as water
and no one has to think and you don't have to manage any
details?" he said. "Absolutely that is easier. But that's not
what the customers are asking for."
Cargill Inc, the largest exporter of U.S. grain, has said it
will not accept Duracade corn for shipment overseas because it
is not approved by major importers. ADM went a step further with
plans to reject crops containing Duracade for domestic
processing or export.
On Friday, Michigan Agricultural Commodities, Michigan's
largest grain handler, became the latest operation to say it
will decline the variety in 2014. It can be difficult to
segregate different varieties of grain from one another because
they are often harvested, transported and stored together.
"We have determined it is in the best interest of U.S.
agriculture - farmers, elevators, processors, and exporters - to
discourage the production of this variety," Michigan
Agricultural Commodities said in a statement.
The National Grain and Feed Association and North American
Export Grain Association have unsuccessfully lobbied Syngenta to
suspend the commercial use of Duracade and MIR 162 in the United
States until China and other export markets have granted
Duracade already has approval from buyers including Mexico,
South Korea and Japan.
Corn containing Duracade will be planted on 250,000 to
300,000 acres this spring and be harvested in the autumn,
according to information Syngenta has provided to the U.S. trade
associations. Corn was planted on 95.4 million acres in the
United States last year.
(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Richard Chang)