Dow limits sales of GM soy, corn on China worries

Reuters — Dow AgroSciences said Wednesday it will restrict sales of its new genetically modified corn and soybeans to prevent them from entering U.S. domestic or international grain marketing channels as it awaits import approval from China.

The move by the agricultural unit of Dow Chemical is aimed at avoiding the type of market turmoil that hit Sygenta and the U.S. grain industry when Syngenta commercialized its own GM corn without waiting for import approval from China.

Paul Bertels, vice-president of production and utilization at the National Corn Growers Association, applauded the move.

“It keeps American farmers competitive and provides access to new technology while respecting global grain markets,” he said in a statement.

China has rejected more than one million tonnes of U.S. corn over the last year that contained traces of the Syngenta corn called Agrisure Viptera, and several U.S. grain industry players have sued Sygnenta over losses from the lost sales.

Earlier this year, the National Grain and Feed Association estimated that U.S. farmers had lost more than US$1 billion because of trade disruptions linked to the rejections.

Dow officials have been eager to get their new corn and soybean seed, dubbed Enlist, into the marketplace. The crops are genetically altered to withstand a new herbicide developed by Dow called Enlist Duo.

But the company said Wednesday it has decided to sell the new corn only under strict conditions that include requirements that the harvested corn be fed to livestock on the farm and not sold. Dow said farmers who grow Enlist corn must maintain isolation areas around their fields to avoid contaminating other crops, and third-party audits will be conducted to make sure the restrictions are enforced.

The company’s new Enlist soybeans will only be offered to farmers as part of a non-commercial program that lets a small number of farmers try out the new seeds. Dow will manage the seed production, including storage and handling after harvest.

Dow received final U.S. approval of the combination of Enlist crops and Enlist Duo herbicide this fall after numerous delays. It has estimated the market opportunity for the product line at US$1 billion.

The company has been awaiting Chinese import approval for roughly two years, and has no certainty when approval might be granted.

The 2,4-D-and-glyphosate-tolerant Enlist corn and soybean traits were approved in Canada for food, feed, and environmental release in October 2012, but Dow had held them back from Canadian commercial release pending U.S. approval, “out of respect for movement of grain between the two countries.”

— Carey Gillam is a Reuters correspondent covering agriculture and agribusiness from Kansas City. Includes files from Network staff.

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