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Syngenta expects China to approve contentious GMO corn imports soon

2014-12-15 13:43 Global Times/Agencies Web Editor: Qin Dexing

Syngenta AG expects to win Chinese government approval soon for imports of a type of genetically modified corn at the center of lawsuits over US grain shipments rejected by China, a company spokesman said on Friday.

Syngenta, one of the world's largest seed companies, will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import, spokesman Paul Minehart said. He declined further comment.

Approval would be significant because US corn trading with China has essentially been shut down since China began turning away cargoes containing MIR 162 corn in November 2013. However, it was unclear whether Syngenta's comment represented a breakthrough in the company's four-year wait for approval or wishful thinking.

The US Grains Council, which promotes exports, said it hoped for confirmation of approval in the coming days.

China might have a new incentive to accept MIR 162 corn from the US because rival exporter Ukraine is struggling to honor grain contracts signed with China because of a shortage, traders said.

The price of corn-based US distillers' dried grain, a byproduct of ethanol refining, has jumped in November, partly on hopes that China will return to the market after halting imports because of MIR 162.

A representative of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment.

Chinese approval of imports would represent "news that's four years coming," said Gary Martin, chief executive of the North American Export Grain Association.

"It should have been done in 2011 and something held it up," he said in a telephone interview.

Global grain handlers Cargill Inc and Archer Daniels Midland Co, along with dozens of US farmers, have sued Syngenta for selling MIR 162 corn without obtaining import approval from China, a major buyer. They claim the company misled the farm industry about the timeline for approval.

Some traders and farmers were skeptical about Syngenta's expectation that China will approve MIR 162 soon. They felt tricked after Syngenta's chief executive officer said during an April 2012 earnings call that he expected China to clear the trait in days.

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