1.U.S. grain exporters test for illegal biotech corn
2.GM Canola contaminates Japan - 'Return to Sender'

EXCERPRT: The exporter said Japanese demand for U.S. corn has dropped after two consignments were found to contain the unapproved variety in late May. "We didn't sell them a pound last week." (item 1)

1.U.S. grain exporters test for illegal biotech corn
by K.T. Arasu
Reuters, 14 Jun 2005
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CHICAGO - Some U.S. grain exporters have begun testing their corn shipments to top market Japan for an unapproved biotech variety that was detected in two cargoes and has slowed the pace of sales, traders said on Monday.

The tests are being done voluntarily by the companies to ensure valuable Japanese importers stay on their clients' list, even as industry officials continue to discuss who should bear the costs eventually, the traders said.

"Yes, testing is being done," said an exporter who sells corn to Japan, adding that the tests were being conducted on samples taken from barges before they head down the river transportation system to export terminals at the U.S. Gulf.

"If the testing is low-priority it's around $180 (per sample), and it can cost three times as much if it is high-priority," he said, adding that the cost could slash profit margins in the highly competitive grain business.

The testing comes as Japan's Agriculture Ministry asked Japanese importers to request U.S. suppliers for certificates declaring their shipments were free of the Bt-10 variety, which was grown from 2001 and 2004 in the United States.

The Japanese move came on the heels of Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta AG seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its Bt-10 corn, which was genetically modified to protect it from an insect.

Syngenta spokeswoman Sarah Hull declined to comment on whether the company would help exporters pay for the U.S. tests.

The North American Export Grain Association said in a note to its members, obtained by Reuters, that the approval process could be completed in as little as 30 days. NAEGA President Gary Martin could not be reached for comment.

An FDA approval would open the door for Japan to allow for a 1 percent tolerance level of Bt-10 in U.S. corn shipments. At present, tainted cargoes have to destroyed or shipped back.

An industry source said tests would be conducted on every 25,000-bushel pile of corn. A barge typically carries about 55,000 bushels of corn in a trip to the Gulf coast.

An exporter said testing for Bt-10 corn was being carried out even though there was no "formal protocol" on testing between U.S. and Japanese authorities.

"I know testing is going on. Everybody is trying to cover their exposure to destinations," he said of sales to Japan.

"I don't know who is going to eat those costs until a protocol is in place," he added.

Another exporter said shippers were also looking at the possibility of getting declarations from farmers they buy corn from to attest that they did not grow Bt-10 corn.

"We will get an affidavit from the farmer that he did not knowingly plant Bt-10 and that to the best of his knowledge his crop is free of Bt-10 corn. This is one of those things being kicked around," the exporter said.

"Right now we are holding our breath. So far, none of our shipments have tested positive," he said.

The exporter said Japanese demand for U.S. corn has dropped after two consignments were found to contain the unapproved variety in late May. "We didn't sell them a pound last week." A grain trader who does business in the river barge market said his company was not testing corn for Bt-10. "We are not doing any testing for Bt-10 although we test for other things like aflatoxin. But I think we'll probably add Bt-10 to that list at some point," he added.

2.Canadian GE Canola contaminates Japan - activists urge 'Return to Sender'
[hear Akiko Frid's presentation]

Greenpeace has released a report detailing how Canadian genetically engineered canola came to contaminate crops in Japan. As an international meeting on the regulation of genetically engineered organisms opened in Montreal, activists urged the Canadian government to take care of the problem.

Read the press release
View photos from Montreal
Download the report (PDF, 300K)
Listen to Greenpeace's submission to the Biosafety Protocol meeting (MP3, 700K)