USGC asks USDA to intervene in China's MIR-162 trade requirements

By Erin Voegele | July 28, 2014

On July 27, U.S. Grains Council Chairman Julius Schaaf asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to personally intervene with his counterpart in China to halt the “current regulatory sabotage of the DDGS trade with China.”

Last week, the USGC called on China to approve MIR-162, a variety of genetically modified corn, following an announcement by the Chinese import inspection authority, AQSIQ, of new biotech certification requirements for distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS). According to the USGC, the new requirements call for a certificate from the point of origin guaranteeing the shipment is free of the MIR-162 biotech trait. In the case of U.S. DDGS shipments, that guarantee would have to come from the USDA.

A statement issued by the USGC indicates China’s mandate was made effective immediately, causing serious disruptions with existing DDGS trade and making future DDGS trade hard to achieve.

 "China is asking for something that cannot be done. This certificate they're asking for does not exist," said Tom Sleight, USGC's president and CEO, in a statement. "It's time for China to look at and approve this trait. It's been approved for commercialization in the United States since 2010, and it's been approved by all importing countries, including the European Union, for quite some time. We think that the lack of approval of MIR 162 is becoming an undue impediment on trade."

The USGC said it is working to address the disruption to DDGS trade with officials in the U.S., China, and representatives of MAIZALL. USGC staff and consultants are also working with other markets interested in DDGS.

In his letter to Vilsack, Schaaf called China’s action “arbitrary, capricious, a major impediment to trade, and a direct threat to the viability not only of DDGS exports but to the U.S. ethanol industry as a whole.”

He also addressed the impossibility of meeting China’s newly announced requirements. “My understanding is that both APHIS and FGIS regard the requested official certification as impossible,” Schaaf wrote. “A suitable test simply does not exist; testing for unapproved traits in DDGS is highly susceptible to false positives, meaning that even cargoes that test negative in the U.S. are quite likely to test positive when retested upon arrival. In addition, some commingling at trace levels is likely to occur in the U.S. grain handing system, making a zero tolerance standard tantamount to an import ban.”

Noting there is no scientific or technical basis for China’s action, Schaaf said the country’s movitation seems to be overtly protectionist and incompatible with China’s obligations as a member of the WTO. “The U.S. Grains Council believes that an immediate and vigorous response at the highest levels of the U.S. government is essential to avert an imminent crisis and to seek a long-term solution towards a predictable and transparent biotechnology policy to normalize trade going forward,” he continued.