South Korea has recently purchased the country’s first shipment of biotech corn via optional origin for the use of food purposes. As of today the Korean Corn Processing Industry Association (KCPIA) has bought 697 thousand metric tons (27.4 million bushels) of genetically modified (GM) corn for April – August shipment at $318.23 - $337.33 per metric ton, cost and freight. Most of the corn will be shipped from the United States, according to the exporters and KCPIA officials.

“This is a significant step forward in terms of broadening acceptance of GM crops for food use in Korea,” said Byong Min, director of the U.S. Grains Council’s Korea office. Min said the remarkably high tonnage amount is due to buyers anticipating a rise in corn prices. “Buyers seriously considered using GM corn way before Korea bought its first cargoes at the end of January,” Min said.

The sale is the result of a series of biotech conferences sponsored by the Council during which representatives from the Korean corn milling industry learned about the safety of GM crops. “Since 2000 when a mandatory biotech foods labeling law was established in Korea, we have invited about 30 corn processing industry representatives to the United States on various educational missions,” Min said. The trips to the United States helped Korean industry representatives become familiar with U.S. corn production, handling, marketing and export systems with special reference to farmers’ preference for biotech corn.

So far, Korea has bought a total of 6,525 thousand metric tons (257 million bushels) of corn for 2008 delivery, of which 56 percent comes from the United States. About 42 percent of the total is from optional origins with two percent arriving from India and China. According to suppliers and buying groups, most of the corn cargoes bought from optional origin will be delivered from the United States who will likely enjoy over a 90 percent market share in Korea’s corn import market for 2008.