June 26, 2013

Asian buyers remain concerned about GMO in wheat imports from US

While the discovery of an unapproved genetically modified organism (GMO) strain in Oregon, US, appeared to be an isolated incident, wheat buyers in Asia remain concerned over alleged imports of genetically modified wheat from the States. 
Major importers, Japan and South Korea, will continue to shun US white wheat, while worries lingered in China as the country steps up imports to build stockpiles.

Chicago wheat slid to a two-month low on June 24 as the US winter wheat harvest progressed, boosting supplies when demand remains weak on concerns over GMO wheat discovered sprouting on a farm in the Pacific Northwest.

The USDA said that it had found no genetically modified seeds in any field it investigated beyond the original site, and "all information collected so far shows no indication" that any biotech wheat was in the food chain.

Toru Hisazome, in charge of grain trading at Japan's farm ministry, said that there's not going to be any change in particular, in reference to Japan's ban on imports of US western white wheat.

He said that the "The (US) announcement is regarded as a temporary report rather than a final one, and I think this is not something we can make decisions on at this point."

Asia imports more than 40 million tonnes of wheat annually, almost a third of the global trade of 140-150 million tonnes. The bulk of the region's supplies come from the US, the world's largest exporter, and Australia, the number two supplier.

Japan was one of first nations to avoid US white wheat imports after the May 29 announcement on genetically engineered wheat.

Flour millers in South Korea also said that the USDA findings would not prompt them to lift their suspension on imports of both US western white and soft white wheat, and that they were still waiting for the Korean government to unveil final test results.

A senior official at the Korea Flour Mills Industrial Association said that their group has no plans to lift ban based upon the US report and they are still waiting for the food ministry's test results.


China has remained concerned about genetically engineered wheat as it emerges as a leading buyer of US wheat, taking 1.5 million tonnes in the last few months after the domestic harvest was hit by untimely rains. 
An industry official said that "it is normal that some mills have worries," but "will not hurt imports of US wheat as Chinese companies are interested in cheap soft red winter wheat, which is not grown in Oregon."
Authorities in the Philippines are on the lookout for genetically modified food imports, even though there is no ban on US wheat. The country imports around four million tonnes of wheat yearly, relying mainly on US supply.