China approves Syngenta's corn seed trait after months of resistance

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2014 -Chinese officials informed a wide variety of U.S. seed industry officials that they approved Syngenta's seed trait Viptera, according to sources contacted by Agri-Pulse. However, industry officials were reluctant to officially announce the agreement until they received formal notification of the approval.

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The Asian giant blocked imports of U.S. corn for over a year due to trace amounts of the disputed seed found in some U.S. shipments. As a result of the trade disruptions U.S. companies filed dozens of lawsuits over the damages to the industry.

How this presumed adoption by the Chinese government will impact those companies, farmers and organizations filing the lawsuits remains to be seen. Lawsuits filed against Syngenta have been consolidated in the United States District Court in Kansas as a multidistrict litigation, according to attorneys handling the case.

In mid-November 2013, China began rejecting shipments of U.S. grain after finding the presence of Syngenta's Agrisure Viptera (MIR 162) seed trait mixed in other corn shipments. Syngenta first submitted MIR 162 to the Chinese for regulatory review in 2010.

A study by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) estimated that U.S. exporters and farmers lost up to $2.9 billion because of the uncertain trade environment.  

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Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. filed lawsuits against Syngenta seeking damages for commercializing Agrisure Viptera before the product obtained import approval in China. Dozens of U.S. farmers also filed suits against the company, claiming that China's rejections depressed the price of corn.

 

Agrisure Viptera, which prevents damage from more than a dozen insects, including rootworm, was approved for cultivation in the U.S. in 2010. Syngenta emphasized that it commercialized the trait in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements, and also obtained import approval from several major corn importing countries.

Earlier this year, despite resistance from grain traders, Syngenta released its Duracade corn seed trait, which China has also been slow to approve.  

For its U.S. launch, Syngenta required producers who buy and plant its Agrisure Duracade seed to sign a “Syngenta Stewardship Agreement.” The agreement says producers must feed the corn to livestock or poultry on their farm or deliver it to a grain handling facility, feed mill, feedlot or ethanol plant not exporting corn to China or the European Union-nations that have not granted approval for the product.

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