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Monsanto still working with China on soy approvals

(Sunday, Feb. 24, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters: St. LOUIS, Mo. - Monsanto Co (MON.N) last week confirmed market talk that China had denied the company a permanent safety certificate for imports of genetically modified soybeans into the country.

The company made application in March 2002 for permanent safety certification to replace temporary certificates now in place that support $1 billion in U.S. soybean exports to China each year. But the March application was recently turned down, Monsanto spokeswoman Jill Montgomery told Reuters.

Company officials have been meeting with Chinese officials to address safety concerns associated with genetically modified crops. Interim certificates remain in force, Montgomery said.

"We've been working with the Chinese government to understand what needs they have for understanding the safety of soybeans, given that it has been imported into the country for several years now," Montgomery said.

Phillip Laney, American Soybean Association country director in China, last week told reporters in a press briefing that the latest denial by China was not a significant setback for efforts to open up markets.

"It was actually just a blip in the road," said Laney. "We believe...the Chinese government wants Monsanto and other biotech companies to go ahead and complete a series of two sets of field trials for each of the biotech varieties they would like to register.

"We of course, feel that these tests are totally unnecessary, but in fact the Chinese law requires them and I guess it's just one of the hoops that Monsanto is going to have to jump through."

That echoed comments by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, who told reporters in Beijing on Feb. 17 after trade talks with the Chinese he had made headway on the soy issue.

"I don't want to be premature in saying the problem is solved, but I got a very positive response and we have to follow up on the details," Zoellick said after meeting Vice Premier Wen Jiabao and Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng.