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GMO crop approval may open door to biotech seed imports in China

By Paul Welitzkin in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-06-19 09:19

China's decision to approve the use of two new varieties of genetically modified crops may signal a willingness to allow US agricultural companies to market biotech seeds on the mainland.

Last week's move to accept genetically engineered corn and soybean varieties developed by Dow Chemical Co and Monsanto Co comes after China agreed in May to accelerate a review of several US seed varieties as part of a trade pact with the Trump administration.

"Receiving approval in China is important as it is a major importer of agricultural commodities from the US, and the seed companies generally do not release new varieties until they have been approved for major export markets," Kent Bradford, a professor and director of the Seed Biotechnology Center at the University of California Davis, wrote in an email on June 16.

Wu Laping, a professor of the College of Economic and Management at China Agricultural University, said that the updated approvals are based on the mutual benefits that the two sides stand to gain. "Not only will it meet China's increasing domestic grain demand, but also contribute to growth in the US," he said.

GMO crop approval may open door to biotech seed imports in China

China has been wary of genetically modified (GM) crops and seeds, citing safety concerns. Bradford said that stance seems to be changing.

"I think a major motivating factor is that these varieties are providing performance and traits that will be valuable to China's farmers," he added.

Bradford also said that China National Chemical Corp's purchase of Swiss concern Syngenta AG, which produces genetically modified seeds for corn, may be behind the move.

"The purchase of Syngenta by ChemChina I think will lead to greater acceptance of GMO crops by the Chinese government," Bradford said. "I think that part of the delay to date has been to wait until Chinese-owned seed companies were able to compete internationally before opening their internal market more.

"China has done a huge amount of internal research on GM crops, and there are many benefits that could come to farmers and consumers there if those products are allowed to be sold," Bradford said.

A Bloomberg report in May said China would carry out a nationwide poll to test the public's acceptance of genetically modified food.

Jing Shuiyu contributed to this report.

(China Daily USA 06/19/2017 page2)

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