In November 2013, Chinese ports began rejecting US imports saying they
were tainted with a GMO Syngenta corn variety, called Agrisure
Viptera, which is approved in the US, but not in China.
Grain traders Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, along with dozens of
farmers, have sued Syngenta for damages after Beijing rejected Viptera
shipments, saying the seed maker misrepresented how long it would take
to win Chinese approval.
The slowdown in Beijing’s regulatory process comes amidst
growing consumer sentiment against GMO food in China and concerns
among some government officials about excessive dependence on US food
China is a key market for the $12 billion US agricultural seeds
business and for global grain traders and accounted for nearly 60
percent of US soybean exports and 12 percent of corn exports two years
ago. Nearly 90 percent of corn in the US is genetically engineered,
according to the US Department of Agriculture.
It is a common practice to mix different corn varieties in
storage and during transportation, so a lack of approval for one GMO
variety can put at risk of rejection large shipments that include
approved GMO grains.
According to Frank Terhorst of Bayer, it can take up to 10 years
and $150 million to develop new GMO seeds and further delays in
Chinese approvals will raise concerns about Bayer’s future
investment in new GMO products.
In the US, Maui County voters last month approved a ban on GMO crop production. Dow and other
companies financially supported opposition to the ban.