(Adds comments from Vilsack, U.S. trade negotiator)
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO Dec 17 A top Chinese government
official said the country has approved imports of genetically
modified Agrisure Viptera corn and two varieties of biotech
soybeans after years of review, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom
Vilsack said on Wednesday.
Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang said imports of Viptera corn,
known as MIR 162, had been approved by China's Ministry of
Agriculture, Vilsack told reporters at a U.S.-China trade forum
in Chicago. The ministry also approved imports of biotech
soybeans developed by DuPont Pioneer and Bayer CropScience, he
added. Vilsack said he did not know the names of the soybean
"He just simply said the ministry of agriculture has
approved these events," Vilsack said of China's vice premier.
Vilsack spoke with Wang Yang at the U.S.-China Joint
Commission on Commerce and Trade, and said it was not unusual
for Beijing to take action ahead of the forum.
However, the import approvals do not represent a loosening
of China's sluggish regulatory review process for GMO crops,
"Their system is what it is," he said of China's review
process. "You get approvals sometimes, and sometimes you don't."
Approval of MIR 162 corn is significant because U.S. corn
trading with China has essentially shut down since Beijing began
turning away cargoes containing the Syngenta AG strain
in November 2013. It was approved for planting in the United
States but not for import by China.
Commodities traders Cargill Inc and Archer Daniels
Midland Co, along with dozens of farmers, have sued
Syngenta over MIR 162, claiming hundreds of millions of dollars
in damages from the trade disruptions in China, a major
Seed makers like Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences
complain that China's review process hurts their ability to
launch new products because it is not predictable and does not
always rely on science.
Syngenta, DuPont and Bayer are waiting for official notice
of the new import approvals from China, said Darci Vetter, chief
agricultural negotiator in the office of the United States Trade
"We think this is very welcome news," she said in an
Representatives of Syngenta, DuPont and Bayer did not
immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.
China's Agriculture Ministry has declined to comment on
approval for MIR 162. [ID::nL1N0U01AZ]
Bayer has been waiting seven years for China to approve a
new soybean seed called LL55 and has delayed starting sales in
the United States while waiting for China's clearance.
(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Chris Reese, Chizu
Nomiyama and Diane Craft)