October 12, 2017 / 1:30 AM / a year ago

Dow to sell GMO soy seed under tight U.S. controls, awaiting China approval

CHICAGO, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Dow AgroSciences will launch a genetically engineered soybean seed that has been barred by major importers under tight controls in the United States next year, the company said Wednesday, as it seeks to avoid roiling global trade while making sales to farmers.

Archer Daniels Midland Co, one of the world's largest grain companies, will oversee the handling of the harvests to keep them out of Europe and China, which have not yet approved imports of the soybeans.

The arrangement shows the lengths that Dow, a division of DowDuPont Inc, is taking to get its Enlist E3 soybean seeds to market as it faces increasing competition for U.S. sales from Monsanto Inc.

Dow also is coping with long regulatory reviews by China and Europe, importers that have frustrated the U.S. seed sector for years with slow approvals for new GMO crops. The company first submitted E3 soybeans for clearance in Europe in 2012 and in China in 2013.

"You cannot predict when you will see the approvals," said Joe Vertin, global leader for the Enlist brand.

Getting new genetically engineered seeds to market quickly is important for seed companies because it can take up to 10 years and $150 million to develop products.

Dow did not release an estimate of how many acres of E3 soybeans will be planted in 2018. Monsanto expects its Xtend soybeans to be grown on about 40 million acres, or more than 40 percent of plantings, up from 20 million this year.

"We want to make sure we give the choices to farmers," Vertin said.

It is a common practice for farmers and grain handlers to mix different soybean varieties in storage and during transportation. That means a lack of approval for one GMO variety can put at risk of rejection large shipments that include approved GMO grains.

To prevent that, farmers who plant E3 soybeans must agree to deliver their harvests to four ADM facilities at set times. Crops received during those periods will be kept in North America, ADM said.

In 2013, China began blocking boatloads of U.S. corn because they contained a Syngenta GMO trait that had not been approved for import.

Jim Sutter, head of the U.S. Soybean Export Council, said he was confident Dow and ADM can keep E3 soybeans out of unapproved markets. Two years ago, U.S. soybean exports to China were valued at $12.7 billion.

"If an unapproved variety got into the supply chain, it would be catastrophic," Sutter said.

Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Leslie Adler

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