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2-Plants: US officials fret over South Korea's response to GM corn mix-up

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TITLE:  US officials fret over South Korea's response to GM corn mix-up
SOURCE: Dow Jones, by Bill Tomson / Nikkei English News via NewsEdge
DATE:   31 Mar 2005

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US officials fret over South Korea's response to GM corn mix-up

Nikkei English News via NewsEdge Corporation: WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--
U.S. 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 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 2004.

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 response.

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 very small.

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.


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