China moves closer to commercial planting of GMO corn, soybeans

China has approved 37 corn and 14 soybean varieties
calendar icon 20 October 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

China has approved 37 genetically modified corn seed varieties and 14 GMO soybean varieties, taking it close to commercial planting of GMO corn and soybeans, according to Reuters.

The varieties approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in a notice on Tuesday include corn varieties owned by Yuan Longping High-tech Agriculture Co, Syngenta and Dabeinong.

China is the world's top buyer of soybeans and corn, importing more than 100 million metric tons of the grains a year to feed its huge livestock herd.

Allowing its farmers to grow GMO varieties that significantly increase yields could reduce future grain imports.

"The penetration rate of genetically modified corn seeds is expected to reach a peak of 90% in the next five years or so," said analysts at Tianfeng Agriculture in a note on Thursday.

Beijing has long had a cautious approach to the technology but has been steadily moving to open up the market in recent years, approving the safety of 14 corn "events", or genetic changes, since 2019 and several soybean events.

Large-scale trials of GMO soy and corn were carried out in 20 counties in five provinces this year, which the agriculture ministry said showed "outstanding" results.

The list of approved varieties is open for public comment until Nov. 15, according to the ministry notice.

But Beijing is still expected to control the area to be planted with the new varieties.

"After the above varieties are approved according to the procedures, the actual planting area should also comply with the relevant arrangements for the national biological breeding industrialization," said the notice.

Still, it is not clear that commercial sales will be fully open next year, said an executive at a seed developer.

"The technical barrier is gone, however the administrative decision is not yet made," he said, declining to be named as he is not permitted to speak to media.

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