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China officially approves imports of Bayer GMO soy variety

2014-12-21 15:51 Agencies Web Editor: Yao Lan

China has officially approved imports of a genetically modified Bayer CropScience variety after seven years of review, the company said on Friday.

Bayer received an import certificate from China, the world's top soybean importer, for its LL55 Liberty Link variety and plans a full commercial US launch of the seed in 2015.

Beijing has been taking longer than in the past to approve new GMO crops. The delay has cast doubt over the future of seed companies' heavy investments in research of GMO seeds, which can take up to 10 years and $150 million to develop.

Approval of LL55 soybean imports "is great news for growers," said Diego Angelo, director of Bayer's US soybean operations, in a telephone interview. "It's great news for Bayer."

China's acceptance comes too late for US farmers who have already ordered their soybean seeds for next year. However, growers in southern states, where LL55 will be planted, typically wait longer to select their varieties than in the Midwest, Angelo said.

Farmers will probably plant LL55 soybeans on 200,000 to 300,000 acres in the southern United States in 2015, he added. This year, US farmers planted 84.2 million acres of soy.

China is a key market for the $12 billion US agricultural seeds business, and accounted for nearly 60 percent of US soybean exports and 12 percent of corn exports two years ago.

Nearly 90 percent of corn in the United States is genetically engineered, according to the US Department of Agriculture, as farmers embrace technology that helps kill weeds and fight pests.

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