GMOs - China - Syngenta

SUBHEAD: China pushes public to accept GMO food products as Syngenta takeover nears.

By Shuping Niu on 21 May 2017 for Bloomberg -

Image above: A bowl of genetically-modified "Golden Rice." Photograph by Imaginechina. From original article.

China will carry out a nationwide poll next month to test the public’s acceptance of genetically-modified food, a technology the government says would boost yields and sustainable agriculture in a country that’s seen consumption soar.

Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University and two other Chinese colleges will carry out the survey, said Jin Jianbin, a professor at Tsinghua’s School of Journalism and Communication. The poll, sponsored by the government, will be carried out in tandem with a campaign on social media to broadcast basic knowledge on GMO technology, which is widely misunderstood in the country, Jin said.

China is the world’s fourth-largest grower of GMO cotton and the top importer of soybeans, most of which are genetically modified and used for cooking oil and animal feed for pigs and chickens. But public concern over food safety issues and skepticism about the effects of consuming GMO foods have made the government reluctant to introduce the technology for staple crops.

A 2012 trial of so-called Golden Rice -- a yellow GMO variant of the grain that produces beta-carotene -- caused a public storm after reports that the rice was fed to children without the parents being aware that it was genetically modified.

“Many Chinese turn pale when you mention the GMO word,” said Jin in his small office. Some still believe GMO food can cause cancer and impair childbirth, due to misleading reports in newspapers and social media, he said. A recent decision by a local legislative body against growing GMO crops has added to public confusion, Jin said.

‘Half-Cooked Rice’

The national survey aims to discover what the public’s concerns are so that the government can resolve the confusion, Jin said. “If the government pushes ahead before the public is ready to accept the technology, it would be embarrassing -- like offering a pot of half-cooked rice to eat.”

Jin said he expected the poll result to show that the general public’s perception of GMO is still negative, but “as more people get to know the technology, more would be willing to accept it.”

The lack of an authoritative scientific institution to answer questions, the widespread illegal cultivation of GMO crops, and public mistrust of government authorities after a series of food scandals have all contributed to skepticism about GMO, Jin said.

Producers of GMO crops claim they offer improved yields, enhanced nutritional value and resistance to drought, frost and insects. Critics have raised concerns over safety and potential adverse ecological effects.

Last year, the U.S., the world’s largest producer of GMO crops, mandated that food makers label products with modified ingredients. EU lawmakers this month objected to imports of herbicide-resistant strains of corn and cotton.

Syngenta AG, which produces genetically modified seeds for corn, is gearing up for rapid expansion in the country after shareholders accepted a $43 billion offer for the Swiss agribusiness by China National Chemical Corp. The Chinese state-owned company is expected to complete the deal this month.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China had complained that U.S. strains of GMO suffered from slower and less predictable approval for import into China. Chinese and U.S. officials have agreed to evaluate pending U.S. biotechnology product applications by the end of the month, including corn and cotton.

China itself has spent billions on research of its own GMO technology over the past decade, but has not allowed commercial production of grains, with scientists citing public resistance as part of the reason for the delay. China has said that it will allow commercial production of modified corn and soybeans by 2020.

Government officials have said that the country would introduce the use of the technology first on feed grains after cotton. China’s corn consumption is estimated to grow nearly 20 percent in the coming decade on demand for protein-rich meat and dairy products.

Syngenta sells Hawaii Sites

SUBHEAD: IB Publisher's note - this is because of the extent of military operations throughout the state of Hawaii and on Kauai the large Syngenta presense at and around the PMRF where research and development and testing of new weapon systems takes place.

By  Jessica Else on 12 May 2017 for The Garden Island - 

An Iowa company is taking over the Hawaii Syngenta sites, including the location on Kauai’s Westside, but day-to-day activities will stay the same, according to company representatives.

The purchase agreement between Hartung Brothers, Inc. and Syngenta was announced Thursday. The deal should close by the end of June for an undisclosed amount.

“There are no planned reductions (in staff) resulting from this,” said Paul Minehart, Syngenta spokesman.

Syngenta’s Kauai location employs about 100 people.

Hartung Brothers, Inc., is a seed company founded in Madison,Wisc., in 1975, that has been providing seed corn production, processing and distribution services to Syngenta since the 1980s.

“We are extremely pleased to have this agreement with Hartung Brothers for our Hawaii sites,” said Ed Attema, Syngenta head of Global Seed Operations, Production & Supply in a press release. “The goal has been to have our employee talent base and facilities maintained and to contract work with the new owner, and that will be achieved.”

All employees will be offered employment by Hartung when the acquisition closes, according to the release.

Part of the agreement includes Syngenta contracting current Hawaii-based seed production activities from Hartung. According to the release, the purchase “ensures ongoing crop innovation will continue to be part of Hawaii agriculture, which plays an important role in food production for the U.S. and around the world.”

Bennette Misalucha, executive director of Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, welcomed the new agribusiness to the Hawaii agriculture community.

“Hartung Brothers, Inc.’s purchase of Syngenta’s Hawaii operations will ensure the preservation of jobs and continuation of seed production activities on Oahu and Kauai,” Misalucha said.

Activists who have been asking the state to regulate pesticide use by the agribusiness companies on the Westside are keeping an eye on the sale, hoping to see a change in practices.

“It would be refreshing if a company came in, grew something non-toxic and profitable, (so) that we could have jobs that are safe from continual pesticide exposure,” said Jeri Di Pietro, of Hawaii SEED.
Di Pietro said she hopes Hartung Brothers will use practices that remedies the soil.

“Even the worst soil can be made healthy again, we need to see what this new company has in mind,” she said.

In August, Syngenta Seeds announced a potential $43 billion sale of the company to China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) and the deal between the state-owned ChemChina and the Swiss-owned Syngenta is nearing completion.

In a Wednesday announcement, the two companies said the takeover has won support from about 80 percent of Syngenta’s shareholders.

The transaction required 67 percent of shareholders to accept the acquisition. According to a timeline provided by the companies, the first half of the settlement will be paid on May 18 and the second half will be paid on June 7.

ChemChina is headquartered in Beijing and owns production, research and development, and marketing systems in 150 countries and regions.

Since the August announcement of the pending sale, Hawaii locations have been exempt from the deal by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment.

Even so, Syngenta officials have been planning to sell its operations on Oahu and Kauai since the announcement of the possible ChemChina buyout in August.

The purpose was to pursue a different operating model by contracting Hawaii-based seed production activities with the new owner, according to a news release, while maintaining a commitment to developing agricultural innovation in Hawaii.

This isn’t the first time Syngenta has entertained the idea of selling or merging the company. In August 2015, Monsanto abandoned a $47 billion proposed takeover of the company.

Though Hartung is taking over the reins at Syngenta’s Hawaii locations, the family owned agribusiness plans to keep the focus on providing customers with quality seeds and services, as well as maintaining a strong workforce.

“Our company is very much a family business rooted in the work ethic instilled in us by our parents Lorna and Galen Hartung,” said Dan Hartung, president, Hartung Brothers, Inc. “We are excited about the opportunities this acquisition will bring our current customers.”

He continued: “It will also allow us to expand our customer base with new capabilities. We are very impressed with the current Hawaii management team and employees. Their dedication, knowledge and pride shows in all they do.”

Syngenta works about 4,000 acres on Oahu and Kauai for inbred and hybrid seed production sites and was established in Hawaii in the late 1960s.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: ChemChina takeover of Syngenta 5/5/17
Ea O Ka Aina: China's suicidal food strategy 9/30/16
Ea O Ka Aina: China to take over Syngenta? 2/2/16
Ea O Ka Aina: GMO Corn Wars 8/28/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Oxfam at Odds over GMO's 4/14/10
Island Breath: TGI#24 - Down with King Corn 2/28/08
Island Breath: GMO Free China 12/22/05


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