WASHINGTON, March 9, 2016 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack remains at odds with ChemChina’s proposed acquisition of Syngenta, but a spokesman for the Swiss company says the post-acquisition environment could be an improvement over the status quo.
In February, Syngenta agreed to a cash proposal from the China National Chemical Corp. – better known as ChemChina – valued at $43 billion after lengthy buyout talks with Monsanto fell through. Some have chuckled at the irony of Syngenta working with a Chinese entity after the company was sued by plaintiffs alleging to have suffered losses when the Chinese government started rejecting shipments of corn containing Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera trait (MIR 162).
It’s the broader problem stemming from that incident that gives Vilsack pause about the deal. Both he and countless others in American agriculture have been calling for better biotech approval processes in foreign markets, China in particular. Vilsack told reporters last week that he wants to make sure this deal won’t result in an inside lane of sorts for Syngenta traits.
“What’s this going to mean in terms of your regulatory process?” Vilsack said when asked what he wants to know from ChemChina. “Anybody going to get a home field advantage here, or are we going to have a level playing field?
“Maybe they can reassure me,” Vilsack added, “but I think the question at least ought to be raised, and there ought to be some indication from the company and the Chinese precisely what is this going to mean.”
Speaking to reporters at the Commodity Classic in New Orleans, Paul Minehart, Syngenta’s head of corporate communications for North America, said the company also wants to see biotechnology “reviewed in a synchronized way and in a science-based process with predictable timelines.” He said a Chinese entity getting a stake in biotechnology, with the purchase of Syngenta for example, could be a “step in the right direction” toward a better approval process.
Overall, Minehart says he sees the proposal as “a very positive development” that “preserves choice for farmers and for our retailers.” He said there are some steps such as shareholder approval and various antitrust review processes around the world that still need to take place, but said that the deal could be wrapped up by the end of 2016.
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