The recent emergence of China as a more aggressive grain importer could cause some headaches at harvest. Reports surfaced recently that major grain elevators rejected corn with Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera trait because the trait hasn’t been approved for export to China.

Farm Industry News asked Chuck Lee, Syngenta, Head of Corn, North America, to explain the situation.

Farm Industry News: What is your response to some grain terminals not accepting Agrisure Viptera corn?

Chuck Lee: We’re disappointed in the actions Bunge and Consolidated Grain & Barge (CGB) have taken. Other grain handlers have indicated they will gladly accept grain with the Agrisure Viptera trait as long as growers notify them before delivery. 

Our priority right now is making sure growers understand their options. We are working through our field organization and resellers, and by Thursday, August 18, we will have a call center established so growers can contact us with their questions and concerns.

FIN: Is Syngenta seeking Chinese approval for the trait?

Lee: Yes.  We applied for Chinese approval in March 2010. The Chinese regulatory system requires obtaining an import approval in another export market before applying for import approval in China. Once we had import approval in Brazil, we immediately filed for approval in China. We’re currently expecting Chinese approval in late March 2012.

Syngenta received deregulation from the USDA for the Agrisure Viptera trait in April 2010. We also obtained approval for all of the key import markets for which the National Corn Growers Association and Biotechnology Information Organization recommend before commercial launch. This includes cultivation approval in Canada, Argentina and Brazil and import approval to Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Korea and Taiwan. Syngenta always includes current approval status in communication materials.

FIN: Did Syngenta expect this?

Lee: No. China has not historically represented a substantial portion of the U.S. corn export market. The National Corn Growers Association and the Biotechnology Information Council have therefore not previously recommended securing China import approval before the commercial introduction of new biotechnology traits. Accordingly, technology providers have not delayed the commercial introduction of new traits due to the lack of Chinese import approval. Examples include the MON89034 trait launch in 2010. 

Recently, however, China’s orders for U.S. corn appear to be increasing dramatically, far surpassing historical levels. Orders for the first time included the 2011 crop and that’s why the import approval became an issue. 

FIN: How many units of corn were planted to Viptera-traited corn?

Lee: This was the first year the Agrisure Viptera trait was available to growers. Total acres of hybrids with the Agrisure Viptera trait represented less than 2 percent of the U.S. corn acres.

FIN: What do you advise producers to do if they have Viptera corn and sell to those elevators?

Lee: Growers have several options of which we are working to make them aware. First, several of the major grain traders have told us they will gladly accept grain with the Agrisure Viptera trait. They only ask that growers notify them before delivery. Second, growers can also deliver their grain to feedlots, feed mills or ethanol plants in their area. Growers can also store their Agrisure Viptera grain and bring it to market after China import approval is obtained, which we expect will be in late March 2012.

By midweek we will have in operation a call center to answer grower questions and provide assistance in identifying marketing options. Growers can also e-mail us at Export.Info@syngenta.com.