WASHINGTON, March 31, 2005, from CropChoice.com, Nikkei English News
via NewsEdge Corporation: Industry and government
officials say they are concerned South Korea may disrupt
corn trade by requiring testing for an unapproved biotech
strain produced in the U.S. over the past four years.
Switzerland's Syngenta AG (SYT) announced last week
it inadvertently sold a limited amount of the unapproved
Bt10 corn seed instead of the approved Bt11 to U.S.
farmers who planted it on 37,000 acres from 2001 through
U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, who asked
not to be named, said since Syngenta's announcement,
South Korea has brought up testing as a possible regulatory
A senior USDA official, when asked about trade implications
from Bt10 corn, said: "This could be a problem."
Reports from private analysts in South Korea said the
country's Food and Drug Administration, or KFDA, is
looking into how it can test corn imports for Bt10.
And Syngenta has mobilized, sending top level representatives
to Seoul. Syngenta spokeswoman Sarah Hull confirmed
that Paul Tenning, head of the company's global biotech
regulatory compliance division, has been sent there.
South Korea imported 148.7 million bushels of U.S.
corn in the 2003-04 marketing year, making it the sixth
largest foreign market for U.S. corn, according to data
compiled by the National Corn Growers Association.
USDA officials said it is still too early to know how
South Korea or Japan, the largest foreign market for
U.S. corn, will respond to the commercialization of
the unapproved biotech strains here.
USDA spokesman Ed Loyd said Japan, South Korea and
other countries just learned of the unapproved biotech
corn production here on March 21. Syngenta informed
the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the
Food and Drug Administration in December that the company
discovered it had accidentally been selling the experimental
and unapproved Bt10 corn seed to farmers.
A senior USDA official said "both Japan and Korea
are looking at their options," but stressed no
decisions have been announced on how they will implement
their domestic regulations. "We have been having
an ongoing exchange of information. They've been asking
questions. We've been providing answers."
The only reaction so far from Japanese government officials
has been to seek assurances there will be no more Bt10
in the U.S. corn supply and to request more information
about Bt10 from Syngenta and the U.S.
Nathan Danielson, biotech director for the National
Corn Growers Association, said the question of how Japan
will react has some analysts "sitting here waiting
and holding our breath."
The USDA, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food
and Drug Administration were quick to declare last week:
"The genetically engineered proteins in Bt10 corn
are identical to those in the Bt11 strain, which is
another genetically engineered corn strain that has
been approved for use. Bt10 corn meets EPA's current
health-based regulatory food safety standards, and the
existing food safety clearance for Bt11 applies to Bt10."
Syngenta officials stressed that not only have they
destroyed or isolated all the remaining unapproved Bt10
seed, but the likelihood that the corn produced from
it over the past four years made it into exports was
Despite the company's promises and U.S. government
reassurances, Syngenta is still being investigated for
violating USDA and EPA regulations. Syngenta has not
asked for approval of its Bt10 corn from the USDA or
EPA, spokespersons for those agencies and Syngenta said.
-By Bill Tomson, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-646-0088;