China Has No Timeframe for Decision Syngenta’s GMO Corn

China has no timeframe to complete safety testing of a gene-modified MIR 162 corn variety developed by Syngenta AG, according to the nation’s committee on the safety of biotechnology.

The body that provides risk analysis to the Ministry of Agriculture on gene-modified crops hasn’t received state instructions for the next meeting and whether the insect-resistant strain may be on its agenda, said Peng Yufa, the chief scientist of the Beijing-based committee, which normally meets three times a year. Even if a product passes a risk analysis, the government may consider other factors, such as trade and bilateral relations, before approving, he said.

Corn imports into China slumped in January as the world’s second-biggest consumer of the grain in October began to reject some U.S. shipments containing MIR 162, which hasn’t been approved. Rejections of U.S. corn totaled 887,000 tons since the first shipment was found in Shenzhen, Xinhua News Agency reported March 3.

“In principle, the meeting may be at the end of March, though we haven’t received any notice,” Peng said yesterday at a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a state advisory body. Even if the meeting is held and the MIR 162 is one of the items to be reviewed, it’s up to the committee’s 64 members to pass a risk review, he said.

China may approve the variety in the first half, Reuters reported on March 5, citing Vice Minister of Agriculture Niu Dun. Niu is not a member of the committee and it is inaccurate to suggest that he is in a position to predict if it will be approved, he said in an interview yesterday.

’Imagination’

The ministry has received the material Syngenta submitted, and the fact that the application has entered the latter phase of the procedure is a positive sign, “but you can’t draw a conclusion based on imagination,” Niu said.

The committee told Syngenta in a meeting last month that it didn’t submit enough data and the company expressed willingness to comply, Peng said.

“China has dietary habits and ecosystems different from the west, so we don’t deem something safe just because foreign countries say it is,” Peng said. “We need further understanding on trans-genic technology because it’s still a new thing.”

Corn for May delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade rose 1.2 percent to $4.9675 by 5:06 p.m. Beijing time, up 18 percent this year.

— With assistance by William Bi

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