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US Losing A Billion Dollars in
Soy Sales to China Over GE

U.S. soy sales to China stop amid concerns over biotech rules

PHILIP BRASHER, AP Farm Writer

WASHINGTON

U.S. soybean shipments to China, a $1 billion-a-year market for American
growers, have come to a standstill because of Chinese biotechnology
regulations that take effect next month.

The rules, announced last year, require that U.S. shippers certify the
safety of genetically engineered soybeans. Industry officials believe they
can meet the standards but say it's unclear how the certification process
will work. Exporters canceled contracts for shipments that wouldn't reach
China before March 20, when the rules take effect. Lawmakers are pressing
China to give the United States more time to comply with the rules.
President Bush was expected to raise the issue during his two-day visit this
week to China.

"It's extremely critical to soybeans," Bart Ruth, a Nebraska farmer who is
president of the American Soybean Association, said Wednesday. "China has
become our single largest market over the last three years."
About two-thirds of U.S. soybeans are genetically engineered so that the
crop can survive when sprayed with a powerful weedkiller.
The Chinese bought 5.2 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans last year, up
from 4.3 million the previous year. U.S. farmers export about 27 million
metric tons of soybeans annually.

A team of Agriculture Department experts spent a week in China earlier this
month trying without success to resolve the issue.
"The new sales have pretty much dried up. They can't really be shipped,"
said Mark Ash, a USDA economist. "It's too close to the March 20 deadline
for shipping soybeans to China now for them to get there in time to be
unloaded."

The Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus of
Montana, and the panel's senior Republican, Charles Grassley of Iowa, wrote
the Chinese government last Friday requesting a 12-month to 15-month delay
in implementation of the rules. Their aides say such a period is consistent
with practices of the World Trade Organization. China became a member of the
WTO in December.

"The rules as they are currently written are not transparent or workable,"
the senators wrote. "Our agricultural producers and exporters do not know
exactly what information China requires them to provide."

Officials at the Chinese embassy had no immediate comment Wednesday.
One of the problem with the rules, according to U.S. officials, is that it
isn't clear whether every shipment will have to be certified, or if a single
certification could cover all American soybeans. The regulations give China
up to nine months to approve the certification.


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