Take extra care to keep biotech traits that are not yet approved in key export markets out of normal grain marketing channels, the American Soybean Association reminded corn and soy farmers Wednesday.
Biotech corn traits that are not yet approved in China, such as MIR 162 and Duracade, should remain out of normal commodity streams so that U.S. soybean shipments to China aren't at risk of rejection due to the presence of unapproved corn traits, the group said.
According to ASA President Ray Gaesser, China currently buys more U.S. soybeans than all other foreign customers combined, and U.S. soybean exports to China are worth more than $14 billion.
"With a record U.S. soybean crop ready for harvest, we need to ensure that U.S. soy exports aren't disrupted," Gaesser said in a released statement. "Farmers growing biotech corn traits that aren't yet approved in China need to follow stewardship agreements carefully, ensure thorough equipment clean-out, and only market their grain in approved domestic channels."
According to Gaesser, the margin of error is very small when it comes to unapproved traits; only a few kernels of corn with unapproved traits are more than enough to reject the entire shipment, he said.
"Unfortunately, some approval systems around the world, including China's and the European Union's, aren't working as timely as we'd like," Gaesser said. "Because of this, farmers have to take extra steps—especially now during the harvest season—to be sure that seed bearing these traits doesn't find its way into their commodity grain loads."
ASA noted the National Corn Growers Association's recent call also to ensure corn is properly marketed. The group has been working with Syngenta to develop alternate marketing channels for grain with certain traits.
ASA First Vice President Wade Cowan said the extra steps and regulatory process has been frustrating, but rules are rules.
"Every necessary precaution needs to be taken by originating trait providers and seed companies, and then on our farms, at the elevators, at terminals and at ports, to prevent seed with unapproved traits from entering the supply chain," Cowan said. "The longer term answer, of course, is a more efficient and transparent system of foreign approvals , and a global policy to allow for the low level presence of biotech traits that are fully approved in a producing market but not yet approved in an export market."
ASA said it is working to improve the marketability of U.S. biotech crops both individually as an organization and in cooperation with other farm, trait, seed, grain, and grain processing organizations through the U.S. Biotech Crops Alliance.