Cargill begins selling GM corn seed at centre of lawsuits

(Dave Bedard photo)

Reuters — Cargill has started selling a variety of genetically modified Syngenta corn seed that previously disrupted U.S. grain trading, now that China has approved imports of the biotech crop.

Cargill, one of the top U.S. grain exporters, began selling seed containing the Agrisure Viptera trait last month and scrapped a policy that required farmers to give the company prior notice of deliveries that may contain Viptera corn, spokesman Mark Klein said.

The agribusiness giant eased its policies on Viptera corn after suing Syngenta over the trait last year, when China had a ban on imports of the genetically modified crop.

Cargill adjusted its policies after Swiss-based Syngenta provided written confirmation that Beijing approved imports of Viptera corn, Klein said.

China in November 2013 began rejecting boatloads of U.S. crops containing Viptera corn, spurring Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and dozens of farmers to sue Syngenta for damages.

David MacLennan, Cargill’s chief executive officer, last week said the rejections caused the company “a lot of financial damage.”

In April 2014, the National Grain and Feed Association estimated that rejections of shipments containing MIR 162 corn cost the U.S. agriculture industry at least $1 billion.

Syngenta has said lawsuits over Viptera corn are baseless.

“Still backed up”

Cargill had previously required farmers to provide notice of deliveries of Viptera corn in an attempt to prevent accidental shipment of crops containing the trait, also known as MIR 162, to unapproved markets.

The company’s revised policies on Viptera corn are in line with its “practice to accept traits that have approvals in all key U.S. export markets,” Cargill said in a notice to customers.

The commodities trader still refuses to accept another variety of GMO corn developed by Syngenta, called Duracade, because China has not approved it for import.

Cargill’s acceptance of Viptera corn without prior warnings does not mean U.S. grain handling is back to normal after last year’s trade disruptions, said James Pizzirusso, a partner with law firm Hausfeld LLP, which co-ordinated some farmers’ lawsuits against Syngenta.

“Domestic grain is still backed up from the significant time that China would not accept our corn,” he said.

Viptera and Duracade corn are both approved for planting in the U.S. and Canada.

— Tom Polansek reports on agriculture and ag commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago.

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