July 3, 2008

 

South Korean GM corn imports to double, despite fears and reservations

   
  

South Korea may import more than twice as much GM corn for food use as expected this year, a government source said yesterday, as soaring prices force companies to accelerate the switch to cheaper varieties.

 

South Korea, the world's third-largest corn buyer, imported 330,000 tonnes of GM corn for food use for the first time in May and June.

 

This year's total may rise to 1.2 million tonnes, or about 60 percent of the total demand from the food sector, a South Korea Food and Drug Administration source told Reuters.

 

The figure is more than double the 500,000 tonnes quoted months ago by major South Korean buyers, who promised a measured approach in GM corn use.

 

South Korean corn users are finding it increasingly hard to find suppliers of conventional corn after China, the traditional supplier, closed off exports early this year. 

 

South Korean starch makers, fearing widespread criticisms on their moves to import GM corn, have preferred to keep news of their GM shipments under wraps. The four largest starch makers this year broke a taboo to import GM corn as China closed off exports.

 

Thousands of protestors, concerned over mad cow disease, thronged the streets of Seoul after the government allowed unbridled US beef imports in May. As the issue dies down, the companies fear protestors may turn their wrath on GM corn.

 

South Korea relies on corn imports to meet 99 percent of demand. The country also relies on imports for 90 percent of its soy supplies.

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