January 9, 2019
China approves import of GM crops
Not long after China's state-owned companies was revealed to have bought about 180,000 tonnes of US soybeans on January 7, the country went on approve the import of five genetically modified (GM) crops the following day.
According to Reuters, the approved products included DowDuPont Inc's DP4114 Qrome corn and DAS-44406-6 soybean (known as Enlist E3), as well as the SYHT0H2 soybean developed by Bayer CropScience and Syngenta.
The other two newly approved products - BASF's RF3 canola and Monsanto's glyphosate-tolerant MON 88302 canola - had been waiting six years for approval.
China's approval marks the first for its GM crop imports in about 18 months and could bolster its grains acquisition from outside the country. It could also relief some pressure from the US - the world's biggest producer of GM crops - which wants China to open its markets to more farm goods.
While China does not permit the planting of GM food crops, the country is the world's leading importer GM soybeans and canola. However, US farmers and global seed companies have bemoaned about the country's lengthy process of approving these products for import, contributing to US-China trade tensions.
Notably, China's approval came as a US trade delegation meets with its counterparts in Beijing this week. A China representative of a US agricultural industry association said the move is a "goodwill gesture" to resolve the trade issue.
However, the approval of five other products - including two GM alfalfa products developed by Monsanto and two DowDuPont soybean traits - are left pending.
Bayer, which welcomed China's latest approval, pointed to several product still "stuck in China's regulatory process for many years" and highlighted the need for China to improve its regulatory processes.
Despite challenges arising from that matter, China's decision to bring in new GM products could lead to the country importing "large volumes of US soybeans in the future," said Li Qiang, chief analyst with Shanghai JC Intelligence Co Ltd.
Still, China's approval should not be seen as the country bowing down to US demands that it makes its GM crop import application process more transparent and scientific methods-based, an industry source in China commented. The approval was rather more "political" than it is "scientific," the unnamed source added, who also believed the approvals were timed for the trade visit.
In the meantime, China's agriculture ministry announced the extension of import approvals for 26 other GM crops by a further three years.