Limited GMO crop launch is 'unique' reaction to China -Dow official

by Reuters
Thursday, 13 November 2014 23:08 GMT

Jon Vickery steps down off a combine machine after harvesting a field of corn in Minooka, Illinois, on September 24, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young

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With China rejecting U.S. grain shipments with traces of GMO, Dow Agrosciences restricts the U.S. introduction of a new product

(Adds details on agreement)

By Carey Gillam

Nov 13 (Reuters) - Dow AgroSciences' decision to severely restrict U.S. introduction of its Enlist genetically modified crops and herbicide - billed as the company's most important product launch ever - came after extensive talks with U.S. grain leaders who fear roiling trade with China, a company executive said on Thursday.

The deep involvement of the grain industry in defining a GMO crop launch and the controls on it underscore the lengths to which U.S. companies go to avoid angering China.

Over the last year, China has shown reluctance to approve new GMO grain for import and has rejected more than 1 million tonnes of U.S. corn containing traces of unapproved GMO traits.

Dow AgroSciences' application for Chinese approval of its Enlist genetically modified corn has languished for about two years. Its Enlist soybeans are also awaiting approval. Both are genetically engineered to withstand treatments of Dow's new Enlist Duo herbicide.

"We want to make sure that we respect their (China's) process," Joe Vertin, Dow AgroSciences' global leader for Enlist, said in an interview.

Vertin said after the company received U.S. regulatory approvals this fall it held talks with national corn and soybean grower groups, grain trading groups and others on how to proceed.

The agricultural unit of Dow Chemical evaluated several proposals before coming up with what Vertin called a "unique" strategy.

That plan, unveiled on Wednesday, allows only for seed production of its new Enlist soybeans. Farmers who grow Enlist corn seed will be required to feed the harvested grain to their livestock and agree to have the process audited. Farmers will be invoiced for Enlist corn seed only after China import approval is granted.

Enlist Duo herbicide will be sold for use on both the beans and corn.

The program is for 2015 and will be re-evaluated for 2016, depending on China's position.

Vertin would not specify the acreage targeted for the launch. But he said the company is optimistic for broad adoption at some point.

"As we look at any biotech trait... it's a gradual process," he said.

Dow's program is stricter than that of Syngenta AG , which also is trying what the industry calls a "stewarded launch."

Syngenta is requiring farmers who plant its Agrisure Duracade GMO corn to feed the harvest to livestock or deliver it to a facility that will not export it to China. (Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; additional reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Dan Grebler)

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