U.S. delegation in China seeks to resolve GM corn dispute

A U.S. Grains Council delegation traveled to China this week aiming to resolve a dispute over a genetically modified corn variety that has triggered Chinese rejection of numerous shipments.

The GMO corn strain, Syngenta’s MIR 162 corn, is approved for cultivation in the U.S. and approved for import by all major global markets but not China.

The delegation includes USGC CEO Tom Sleight, USGC’s director in China Bryan Lohmar and others, a USGC spokeswoman said. She could not immediately confirm participants from the Chinese side.

USGC, which develops export markets for U.S. grain and grain products, plans to send another delegation to China next week for further talks.

Some 600,000 tonnes of U.S. corn has been turned away by China since mid-November because the shipments contained MIR 162 corn, which has been awaiting import approval by China for more than two years.

“The key point is there are fundamental issues in China with biotech acceptance that we have to address and we’re working on that,” Sleight said in comments posted to the USGC website.

“Their approval process has been cumbersome; it’s been somewhat non-transparent and unpredictable,” Sleight said.

“There’s no immediate magic wand to wave here but if we keep at it I think we’ll get back to a normal trading relationship once we start answering some key questions that are being raised in China now and elsewhere around the world.”

Along with the corn rejections, Chinese quarantine officials have also rejected 2,000 tonnes of U.S. dried distillers’ grains (DDGs) for the unapproved GMO, although more shipments of the corn-ethanol byproduct and popular feed grain were beginning to pass inspections.

In December, talks held during the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade failed to secure an agreement on MIR 162 corn.

MIR 162 has been approved for production since 2010 in Canada, where it’s distributed by Syngenta under the Agrisure Viptera banner.

– Karl Plume reports for Reuters from Chicago. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.