Chinese firm begins testing GMO corn seeds in U.S. greenhouse

The logo of Origin Agritech is seen at the company's headquarters in Beijing, November 27, 2015. Picture taken November 27, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Chinese biotech seed firm has planted genetically modified corn seeds in the United States at a greenhouse designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the company said, an early step toward launching China’s first GMO corn products in the United States.

Beijing-based Origin Agritech Ltd said on Wednesday that U.S. field tests of its seeds, with insect resistance and herbicide tolerance technologies developed in China, are scheduled to begin next summer.

The U.S.-listed company is aiming to launch its GMO corn products on the home turf of the world’s top agricultural companies, as Beijing’s reticence over GMO food keeps the domestic market off limits.

It must perform tests to obtain approvals for potential U.S. sales from the USDA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Critics of GMO crops believe they contribute to the industrialization of farming and question research showing they are safe for humans.

Origin Agritech’s efforts mark the latest move by a Chinese firm to jump into the competitive global biotech seed sector, which has long been dominated in the United States by Monsanto Co and Pioneer, a unit of DuPont.

China National Chemical Corp [CNNCC.UL] has agreed to buy Swiss-based seed and farm chemicals company Syngenta AG, which does business in the United States, for $43 billion.

The global agricultural sector is scrambling to consolidate, with Monsanto and DuPont also pursuing separate tie-ups, as a global downturn in grain prices and a strong dollar have reduced U.S. farm incomes and prompted producers to cut spending.

Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter and Tom Polansek; Editing by Matthew Lewis