US Grain Traders Ban Unapproved GMO Grains
Across the US grain belt, top agricultural commodities handlers have banned GMO (genetically modified) crops that are not approved in all major overseas markets, shaking up a decades-old system that used the world’s biggest exporting country as a launchpad for new seeds from companies like Monsanto (NYSE:MON).
Bright Yellow signs from global trader Bunge Ltd (NYSE:BG) are posted at US grain elevators barring 19 varieties of GMO Corn and Soybean that lack approval in important markets.
The US farm sector is trying to avoid a repeat of the turmoil that happened in Ys 2013 and 2014, when China turned away boatloads of US Corn containing a Syngenta AG (NYSE:SYT) trait called Viptera that it had not approved. Viptera Corn was engineered to control insects.
Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. (NYSE:ADM) each said the rejections cost them millions of dollars, and both companies have sued Syngenta for damages. ADM is refusing GMO crops that lack global approval.
Cargill did not respond to requests for comment.
The United States is the biggest producer of GMO crops and has long been at the forefront of technology aiming to protect crops against insects or allow them to resist herbicides.
That innovation is now seen as a risk to trade because it is hard to segregate crops containing unapproved traits from the billions of identical-looking bushels exported every year.
Soren Schroder, CEO for Bunge, said the practice of launching GMO seeds without full approval is “very risky.”
“It’s an uncomfortable position for the industry when there are traits out there that haven’t had major market approval,” he said in an interview.
The latest crop being banned is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Soybean, whose seeds are genetically engineered to resist the herbicides glyphosate and dicamba. It is being sold for the 1st time in the United States and Canada this year despite lacking clearance from the European Union, an important export market for North American Soybean.
Monsanto said it expects EU approval soon.
Plantings have already begun in North America, and a Monsanto spokeswoman said that each passing week without EU authorization lowers the forecast for acreage in the US and Canada.
ADM, Bunge and CHS (the largest US farmers co-op) have said they will not accept Xtend Soybean until the trait is fully approved by major markets.
The company’s list of banned traits on its Yellow posters contains products from Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, Stine Seeds, DuPont Pioneer and Bayer(OTCMKT:BAYRY), many of which are not commercially available to farmers now.
CHS has its own list of restricted traits that includes products from Monsanto, Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer.
Seed companies, including Syngenta and Dow (NYSE:DOW),are addressing industry concerns by selling biotech products under programs that restrict where growers can deliver their harvests to keep crops out of unapproved markets.
Farmers also produce crops containing biotech traits from Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer under contracts with end users that designate approved locations where they can be delivered.
Stine Seed and Bayer said they have policies against selling seed traits that lack approvals in major export markets.
Last week Bayer seized on concerns about Monsanto’s launch of Xtend Soybean to promote its own brand, LibertyLink.
“Soybean, once considered such a simple crop to grow and market, is becoming more complicated,” Bayer said. It called the situation faced by growers “downright confusing.”
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