USGC Director optimistic with progress on biotech communication with China

Cheryl Anderson
DTN news service
DAVENPORT, Neb. - Recent issues with China over biotech U.S. corn and dried distillers grains are very complicated, but can hopefully be resolved with continued communication and education between the U.S. and China, according to Tom Sleight, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council.
Much of the controversy began last November when China began rejecting shipments of U.S. corn because they contained a genetically modified variety unnapproved in China, the MIR 162, more commonly known as Agrisure Viptera produced by Syngenta Ag and developed to help control a range of pests. Traders worried that U.S. DDG shipments would be the next to be rejected and their fears materialized when Chinese authorities rejected about 2,000 tons of DDG right before Christmas. Furthermore, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, China's inspection agency, announced their intentions to test all imports of U.S. DDG for the presence of MIR 162.
The news quickly spread, traders panicked and exports of DDG to China, the largest market for U.S. DDG, came to a screeching halt. That chain of events resulted in a glut of product on the market, causing DDG to plummet, falling $70 per ton in just three days between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27. Trade quickly rebounded, however, as China eased its restrictions and imports of DDG reached near record-high levels in January 2014.
Since that time, Syngenta's Agrisure Duracade genetic trait, developed to help control rootworm, has also met with controversy, as corn processing giant Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. announced it would not accept corn containing the Duracade trait until its use is approved by China. ADM said it reserved the right to test corn delivered to them, and asked farmers to verify that the seed variety they plan on using in the spring is approved for use globally.
Sleight told DTN that the council has been working constantly, both in its Beijing office and in the U.S. to try to find solutions to help facilitate biotech approvals, and that the U.S. needs to have an ongoing discussion with China to educate customers and buyers on biotechnology.
"We have been having this discussion about biotech for years and years, it's just that in November it became more complicated and involved," he said. "We can get beyond these problems by being sensitive to customers' needs and by advocating for the continuing of trade, not just for DDG, but for grain as well."
Sleight said there have been some issues with communication between seed technology providers such ans Syngenta, Monsanto and Pioneer, and China's ministry of agriculture, as far as question the seed tech providers needed to answer and some delays that caused some concerns.
Sleight said there has been some progress made in rectifying the situation and that Syngenta has made efforts to answer questions from Chinese officials, as well as visits from U.S. delegations to help resolve any miscommunications.
"There is no simple solution," he said. "We just need to keep talking at a variety of levels and negotiate on biotech acceptance and approvals."
Sleight said he is optimistic that the U.S. and China can come to a resolution on biotech issues, but said since it is such a complicated process, he is unable to predict a timeframe.
He added that there are many players involved with this issue in China that also want to reach a positive resolution regarding biotech goals.
"We need to keep talking about this issue at a variety of levelsl," he said, adding that China's secretary of agriculture has been supportive and that there will be much effort in coming months to have a continued positive dialogue.

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