US GM corn smuggled into China may have caused failure of the corn crop - and China has rejected a quarter of US corn imports this year due to the presence of unapproved GM varieties.
1. Golden corn in Hunan may be tainted with GM strain
2. China rejects U.S. corn imports after finding GMO strain in cargoes
1. Golden corn in Hunan may be tainted with GM strain
Ecns.cn, 20 Dec 2013
Police in Huaihua city, Central China's Hunan province, said they have busted a smuggling case of corn seeds, which may contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, according to the National Business Daily.
The seeds of "US golden corn", smuggled from Hong Kong and Thailand, caused 200 acres of corn to fail last year in Tongdao county of Huaihua.
The source of the smuggled corn seeds were said to be Monsanto and Syngenta, two companies notorious for producing GM seeds.
Police caught one of the main smugglers, Luo Haihong, who had imported over 500,000 tons of corn seeds since 2003, without permission.
Li Wenliang, a professor at University of International Relations (UIR), said agricultural specialists had detected that part of the seeds might be genetically engineered. "It brought out the case that genetically modified corn seeds had infiltrated China, and brought potential hazards to China's food security, or even national safety."
According to Chinese law, foreign seeds can be cleared by customs after passing tests by inspection and quarantine authorities.
Yin Zhicai, a deputy chief at the Tongdao Public Security Bureau, said large batches of the seeds were smuggled in. "Some were also brought in by tourists traveling to China."
And some seeds from Hong Kong came into the mainland through trucks and package delivery, according to Li.
Liu Yuejin, another professor at UIR who participated in the investigation, said they didn't how many illegal seeds were brought into China.
"Smuggled seeds have been a cancer in the local market," Li said. "They would undermine farmers' interests, and cause food safety and national security problems if they were grown in large numbers."
2. China Rejects U.S. Corn Imports After Finding GMO Strain in Cargoes
It Has Rejected Around a Quarter of U.S. Corn Arriving at Its Ports So Far This Year
Wall St Journal, Dec. 20, 2013
China has blocked an unprecedented amount of U.S. corn imports this year for violating its ban on certain types of genetically modified food, illustrating the difficulty big biotechnology companies face in tapping the country's potentially vast market.
Market watchers said the refusals are a result of stepped-up vigilance by Chinese authorities—made easier to implement thanks to a healthy increase in domestic corn supplies this year.
China's quality watchdog said Friday that it has repatriated 545,000 metric tons of U.S. corn so far this year in cargoes that contained MIR162, an insect-resistant strain of the grain that is permitted in the U.S., Japan and Europe but not approved by China's agriculture ministry.
China's agriculture ministry said it is still evaluating MIR162.
China imported about 1.5 million tons of corn from the U.S. in the first 10 months of this year, according to customs data.
At a press conference on Friday related to U.S.-China trade negotiations, Vice Agriculture Minister Niu Dun said the corn was rejected "because safety assessment procedures for export of GMO corn weren't completed."
Also speaking at the bilateral Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in Beijing, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack had discussed the rejected shipments with his Chinese counterparts. Mr. Froman called the matter an "area of continuing work," but didn't say whether any progress had been made. Mr. Vilsack wasn't immediately available for comment.
Swiss biotechnology company Syngenta AG, which makes MIR162, called on China Friday to update its laws to allow the strain. "The solution is with the Chinese authorities," a spokeswoman said. "If they want to import corn from the major corn-producing areas of the world, they should synchronize their regulatory process so that they can accept the corn being grown in those regions."
While the U.S. and Europe widely accept genetically modified grains, China bans them for human consumption, saying they are still in the final stages of testing whether such food is safe for commercial distribution. Seed manufacturers have complained that the opaque approval process disrupts markets for global growers and traders. Beijing allows some transgenic corn strains to be imported for use as animal feed.
Increasing demand has propelled China from being a net corn exporter to the world's fifth-largest buyer.
Analysts say this year's rejected cargoes add up to a record-high volume of grain turned away. No corn shipments were rejected last year, and only a negligible amount was sent away over the past three years, said Zhang Yan, an analyst with the consulting firm Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. Before 2010, China bought only small and sporadic shipments of foreign corn, Ms. Zhang said.
The tainted corn was found in 12 batches of U.S. shipments sent to ports in at least six Chinese provinces, China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said. The agency said its quarantine bureaus have notified U.S. authorities and urged the U.S. to "improve its inspection procedures."
Traders worry the rejections may herald a slowdown in demand for exports to China. Chinese importers had lined up three million tons of U.S. corn imports by summer this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in August. However, an ample harvest in China may have blunted the country's need for the imports.
State grain researchers say China's corn harvest this year of an estimated 215 million tons was likely a 5% increase compared with 2012, though the government hasn't disclosed the exact volume. Official data say China's total grain harvest, which includes corn, is up 2% on year.
"A more realistic factor to consider is that domestic corn supply has been quite high lately, so there isn't quite as much a need for foreign supply," said Rabobank analyst Pan Chenjun.
Senior government officials have warned that the country may face a rising corn supply deficit in coming years due to increasing demand from food-processing industries. In recent months, the agriculture ministry has defended a trend of rising corn imports by arguing in a series of public statements that using a combination of domestic and foreign resources is "an inevitable choice for China."
With U.S. shipments currently accounting for 94% of China's corn imports, it is moving to diversify. In recent months, it has made corn-import deals with Argentina and Brazil, including approved approval of genetically modified strains for animal consumption.
Some military strategists have warned that Western nations could use genetically modified organisms as a strategy to undermine China's food security.