If China refuses to grant import approval, then the answer could be YES.
While non-GMO advocates and environmentalists work feverishly through the U.S. court system to prohibit Dow Agrosciences from unleashing the so-called Agent Orange GMO seeds, Dow has voluntarily restricted launch of their new EnlistTM soybeans and corn pending import approval from China.
Within just a few days of the USDA’s deregulation of Dow’s Enlist GMO corn and soybeans on September 17, China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) announced a suspension of the import approval process for a genetically modified soybean variety, citing “low public acceptance” of GMO food. The Reuters article published September 26, quoted an unnamed industry association executive, “Previously if the MoA decided not to approve a new product, it would be because of not enough data, but this year, the reason is because they are considering social acceptance problems.” The source further declined to identify the soybean variety involved.
This is a huge issue for the U.S. agribusiness industry as China accounts for about 20 percent of all U.S. farm exports which reached a record $26.7 billion in fiscal year 2013. According to USDA data, China imported a whopping 26,734,048 metric tons of soybeans for the year ending October 3, 2014. That is over 60% of the U.S. total export sales of soybeans by volume.
To further emphasize the importance of the Chinese disposition toward GMOs, a series of disruptions to the grain markets caused by China’s refusal of shipments of over 1 million tons of U.S. corn last year cost U.S. agribusiness more than US$1 billion according to estimates by the National Grain & Feed Association. The corn contained trace amounts of a biotech trait commercialized in the U.S. by Syngenta but unapproved for import into China.
It is no surprise then, that the grain industry was deeply involved in consultation with Dow prior to the company’s decision in November to restrict the sale of Enlist GMO corn and soybeans for the 2015 planting season. In what has been billed as the company’s most important product launch ever, Dow official, Joe Vertin, acknowledged in an interview last November that their approach was a ‘unique’ reaction to China. “We want to make sure that we respect their (China’s) process,” Vertin said. Enlist corn may only be planted for feed on-farm with no sales permitted into commercial market channels; Enlist soybeans will be made available to a limited number of growers with the requirement that producers enter into a contract to sell any seed produced only to Dow Agrosciences.
Dow’s Enlist seeds are genetically modified to withstand application of their patented herbicide, Enlist DuoTM, a highly potent combination of glyphosate and 2,4-D. By marketing the Enlist seeds and Enlist Duo herbicide as a complete weed control system, Dow is seeking to capitalize on the dramatic spread of the glyphosate-resistant weeds known as Superweeds, which are now estimated to have spread over 70 million acres in the U.S. In a somewhat ironic form of acknowledgement of the problem created by overuse of their Roundup Ready® GMO seeds, Monsanto was the first licensee of Dow’s Enlist trait in corn.
About IRT. The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) is a non-profit organization that researches and reports news and information about the health risks of genetically engineered food. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are present in processed foods and many food products.