May 12, 2017 / 10:00 PM / a year ago

China's vow to review U.S. GMO crops may speed seed sales

    By Tom Polansek and Karl Plume
    CHICAGO, May 12 (Reuters) - China's promise to evaluate
eight varieties of U.S. genetically modified crops by the end of
this month under a trade deal marks a step forward in a
years-long process that has held up seed sales in the United
States, the world's top grains exporter.
    Every new variety of GMO crop has to win approval in export
markets before it can be sold there. 
    China's review covers crops grown from seeds developed by
major agrichemical companies, including Monsanto Co        , Dow
Chemical         and DuPont       , the U.S. Commerce Department
and the companies said on Friday. They have been stuck in the
Chinese approval process for up to six years.             
    Dow AgroSciences said Chinese approval would be key to the
roll out of its new Enlist corn and soybeans seeds in the United
States, where over 90 percent of corn is genetically modified.
    China was the top export market for U.S. agriculture
products, valued at over $21 billion, in 2016 and is the world's
biggest buyer of soybeans. It has roiled markets and sent prices
sliding in the past when it has taken a tough line on imports of
certain GMO products.
    In November 2013, China began rejecting U.S. corn shipments
because Chinese inspectors said they contained a GMO corn
variety made by Syngenta AG          called Agrisure Viptera.
The variety was approved by the United States but not China.
    A U.S. trial over the matter is set to start this summer,
with farmers suing Syngenta after corn prices allegedly fell
because of the rejections, which cost the agriculture industry
up to $2.9 billion in lost sales and lower prices.
    Agrichemical companies have since taken a careful approach
to launching products. For Enlist, Dow AgroSciences has
restricted sales to U.S. customers during China's review.
    Chief Executive Tim Hassinger said he was "very encouraged
by the progress announced by the U.S. and Chinese governments."
    Monsanto makes four of the products pending approval,
including herbicide-tolerant corn, soybean and alfalfa varieties
that have been under review for almost five years, spokeswoman
Christi Dixon said.
    DuPont Pioneer and Syngenta each make one of the other
products pending approval, according to biotech industry group
    The development on GMO crops accompanied news that China 
will also resume U.S. beef imports by mid-July after banning
them due to a scare over mad cow disease in 2003.             
    That year, the United States exported $10 million worth of
beef to China. China's imports climbed to $2.3 billion by 2015
from suppliers in Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Australia.
    On Friday, a representative of Chinese buyers was already
seeking to meet Illinois beef producers because of the new trade
deal, according to the Illinois Farm Bureau.

 (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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