China allowed five new genetically modified (GM) products from the United States and Canada for import after suspending GM approval for 18 months, leading to a total of 31 approved GM products in the country, an announcement by the agricultural ministry said.
According to a list issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MOA) on January 8, the five products include two rapeseed varieties, BASF’s RF3 canola and Monsanto’s MON 88302 canola, and two GM varieties from DowDuPont Inc., DP4114 Qrome corn and DAS-4406-6 soybean. The ministry also approved another soybean variety produced by Bayer Crop Science and Syngenta.
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Under extremely strict regulations in China, GM crops can be imported only after going through a long period of safety assessments and receiving an import permit from the MOA. Additionally, they can only be used for being processed into other products, such as edible oil and feed. The permit is usually effective for three years, but it is always a long and slow process to get the GM products approved. Two of the products approved this week had been awaiting approval for six years.
The most recent approvals of genetically modified agricultural products dated back to June and July 2017, when the MOA allowed the import of 16 GM plant varieties — 14 renewals and two new permits, including cotton, soybeans, corn, rapeseed and beets.
China exerts very tight policies on approval of GM products that can be sold for consumption. GM agricultural products available on the domestic market are mostly imported and must be apparently labeled for sale on the market under government regulations.
China has approved two agricultural products — cotton and papaya — for commercial cultivation, but allows import of some GM agricultural products, including soybeans, for food production, the MOA said.
Some GM crops, due to special characteristics, such as resistance to pests and weedkiller, are easier to grow well than traditional plants and are in great demand, said a Chinese scientist.
The agricultural ministry, however, said China’s GM industrialization process follows a strict “3F curve,” which includes the three stages of ‘Fiber, Feed, and Food.’
China encourages scientific research in genetic modification technology since it plays a very important role in increasing agricultural productivity and increasing farmers’ incomes, but remains cautious when promoting GM technology and products to ensure food security, said Zhang Taolin, vice-minister of MOA.