Japan finds 4th U.S. corn cargo tainted with Bt-10

TOKYO, July 7, 2005, Reuters as reported by CropChoice.com: Japan has discovered a fourth U.S. feed grain cargo tainted with Bt-10 biotech corn, and the importer must either destroy it or ship it back to the United States, the Agriculture Ministry said.

Samples from the U.S. feed corn cargo tested positive for traces of Bt-10, a genetically modified (GMO) corn strain made by Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta AG that has not been approved for distribution.

Syngenta said in March that some of its corn seeds in the United States had been mistakenly contaminated with Bt-10 from 2001 to 2004.

Japan has a zero-tolerance policy on imports of unapproved GMO crops. The Agriculture Ministry has proposed accepting feed grain cargoes with up to 1 percent of Bt-10 corn, to smooth the flow of U.S. corn supplies to Japan's livestock industry. But the plan is subject to approval by Japan's Food Safety Commission, an independent agency.

In a statement issued late on Wednesday, a ministry official said the tainted cargo arrived on June 20 at the port of Tomakomai on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Samples containing Bt-10 were taken from 1,429 tonnes of corn in the vessel.

The ministry did not name the importer.

It was the fourth discovery since May 23 when the ministry started random tests on arriving U.S. corn shipments. The three previous cases were reported on June 1, June 3 and June 23.

More contaminated cargoes will likely be found, as the ministry has stepped up its tests to cover all U.S. corn cargoes.

To ensure tainted supplies are not shipped to Japan, the ministry has told importers of U.S. corn they must obtain certificates stating the cargoes do not contain Bt-10.