BEIJING, Feb 13 (Reuters) - China has begun testing imported U.S. soybean cargoes at the southern province of Guangdong for contamination with the unapproved genetically-modified MIR 162 strain of corn, traders said on Thursday.
Strict testing of corn shipments for the variety developed by Syngenta AG, which has not been approved for import by China’s agriculture ministry, has led to rejection of more than 600,000 tonnes of corn from the United States and interrupted imports of the feed grain as well as its by-products.
But the quarantine bureau in Guangdong, the largest importing province in China of soybeans and grains, is now also looking for potential MIR 162 contamination in other imported crops.
“The provincial authority has given instructions to test for MIR 162 in foreign bodies mixed in with soybeans,” said one industry source, who declined to be identified.
Three cargoes, equivalent to about 180,000 tonnes, are currently being tested. Local crushers have been allowed to unload the beans, but they are forbidden to process them until the final test results emerge in about two weeks, traders said.
Guangdong provincial authorities were not immediately available for comment. Guangdong was the first province to reject U.S. corn after finding the MIR 162 strain.
Quarantine authorities in China are regularly testing for genetically-modified organism (GMO) strains among soy cargoes.
They have previously allowed crushers to start processing them before the test results have been completed, as long as they provide a signed guarantee that the cargoes contain no unapproved variants, said one trader with an international trading house.
China has approved about eight GMO soy strains for import.
“It is hard to judge the situation. Authorities may be concerned over food safety. If soybeans containing unapproved GMO strains are processed, you have no way to trace them,” said the trader.
China, unable to produce enough of its own to meet rising domestic demand for cooking oil and meat, is the world’s top buyer of genetically-modified soybeans. The country’s imports account for about 60 percent of globally traded volumes.
Soy is processed into cooking oil and meal, a protein-rich feed ingredient.
Chicago Board of Trade March soybeans futures rose 0.38 percent to $13.28 a bushel by 0305 GMT, having closed down 0.86 percent in the previous session after China cancelled purchases of 272,000 tonnes of U.S. soy and shifted to cheap South American supplies. (Reporting by Niu Shuping and David Stanway; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)