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Major HFCS manufacturer bans Syngenta's GMO corn

GMO corn

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(NaturalNews) A major U.S. manufacturer of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has announced that it will not purchase a new strain of genetically modified (GM) corn from biotech company Syngenta.

The company, Illinois-based Ingredion Inc., did not state its reasons for rejecting GM corn of the Agrisure Duracade variety, but numerous other global commodity traders have already rejected that corn and another Syngenta variety because it is not approved for import in China or the European Union.

In 2009, Syngenta began selling seeds for a GM corn variety known as Agrisure Viptera, engineered for resistance to various pests including black cutworm, corn borers and corn rootworm. In 2014, the company released a second-generation series of the same corn, known as Agrisure Duracade. Together, Viptera and Duracade (known as MIR162 varieties) comprise 41 of the 52 new corn hybrids due to be released by Syngenta this year.

But farmers have been slow to adopt MIR162 varieties, such that these GM crops comprise only 3 percent of total U.S. corn acreage. A major factor behind farmers' reluctance has been the difficulty in finding buyers for their crop -- a difficulty driven by China's refusal to import the corn.

Major markets reject GM exports

Ingredion -- which also makes corn starch -- had initially announced that it would also refuse to buy Viptera corn but later removed that statement from its website and clarified that it is evaluating whether to accept Viptera or not. It definitely will not be purchasing Duracade, however.

By rejecting Duracade, Ingredion joins the company of major commodities traders -- including Archer Daniels Midland Co and Bunge Ltd -- that have refused to trade in Duracade corn. These companies explained their decision by noting that major corn importers including China and the European Union will not accept MIR162 GM corn varieties.

Syngenta is attempting to persuade farmers that the refusal of major purchasers to buy MIR162 corn does not make it unsellable. It has partnered with Japanese-owned grain merchant Gavilon to help connect farmers with buyers of MIR162 corn, including buyers in Mexico and Japan. The company has also released a "fact sheet" downplaying the financial importance of corn exports.

Battle of the food giants

Yet, on October 6, a number of major agribusiness companies, including Cargill, filed lawsuits against Syngenta, claiming that the company had given them the false impression that Viptera had already been approved for import into China, thereby costing the companies more than $131 million worth of rejected shipments, and costing the U.S. corn industry at least $1 billion.

Historically, China has been very welcoming of GM grains. Yet, in recent years, the agriculture ministry has begun putting new GM varieties through a more rigorous approval process, one of many signs that the country may be growing more skeptical of GM crops.

In November 2013, Chinese agricultural inspectors detected traces of MIR162 in corn shipments from the United States. Although MIR162 comprises only a small proportion of the overall corn harvest, U.S. corn-processing practices regularly mix corn from different growers together in giant storage facilities, leading to cross-contamination.

The Chinese government rejected all contaminated shipments. According to Cargill and its co-plaintiffs, China was formerly the third-largest market for U.S. corn exports. Since the MIR162 scandal, Chinese imports have dropped 85 percent, the plaintiffs said, driving corn prices to a five-year low and costing the industry more than $1 billion.

Syngenta should not have offered the corn for purchase without first obtaining import approval, the plaintiffs allege.

Notably, the lawsuit -- by companies that regularly champion GM foods, no less -- adopts a position previously raised by many GMO opponents: that planting of MIR162 could lead to genetic contamination of nearby fields, thereby affecting even those farmers who have chosen not to plant the GM seed.





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