Politics

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China took a significant step toward the commercial planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by granting approval for 37 genetically modified corn seed varieties and 14 GMO

soybean varieties.

This approval, issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, encompasses a range of corn varieties, including those owned by Yuan Longping High-tech Agriculture Co, Syngenta, and Dabeinong.

China, being the world's largest purchaser of soybeans and corn, imports over 100 million metric tons of these grains annually to sustain its vast livestock population. The introduction of GMO varieties that offer substantially increased yields could potentially reduce the country's reliance on future grain imports.

Industry experts anticipate that the adoption of genetically modified corn seeds could potentially peak at a 90% penetration rate within the next five years. This change in approach reflects a shift in Beijing's stance towards GMO technology, which, while cautious in the past, has gradually opened up the market. Since 2019, China has granted safety approvals for 14 corn "events" or genetic modifications and several soybean events.

Large-scale trials of GMO soybeans and corn were conducted in 20 counties across five provinces in the current year, yielding "outstanding" results, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The list of approved GMO varieties is currently open for public commentary and review, with the period lasting until November 15, as outlined in the ministry's notice. However, the Chinese government is expected to retain control over the extent of land allocated for planting these new GMO varieties.

An executive from a seed development company emphasized that while the technical barriers have been removed, the final administrative decision regarding full-scale commercial sales remains pending. This executive chose to remain anonymous as he is not authorized to comment to the media. Photo by Jeremy Keith from Brighton & Hove, United Kingdom, Wikimedia commons.