January 4, 2016
China top importer of GM crops, but no cultivation yet
China remains the world's top importer of biotech crops, but has yet to approve the cultivation of major biotech food crops, according to the recently released 2015 China Agricultural Biotechnology Annual prepared by the US Department of Agriculture.
The annual report said the approval for domestic cultivation of genetically modified corn, which the Chinese government intends to commercialise, may take place only with the next two to five years.
The government is revising its biotechnology regulatory system, and a draft of the revised regulations was released by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) in May last year. It removes timelines for approvals, and adds economic and social factors to the approval process for the first time. Specifically, public consultations would be held to involve interested parties in agriculture biotech review decision-making.
China has invested hugely in biotechnology research, with President Xi Jinping saying foreign companies should not be allowed to "dominate the agricultural biotechnology product market."
Thus, China has so far not approved any foreign biotech food or feed crops for domestic commercial production, but according to the USDA report, there have been increasing reports of farmers in China planting unapproved insect-resistant varieties of corn as well as rice to cope with rising pest pressures.
No new approvals in 1 year
In December 2014, MOA approved two new soybean and one corn variety for import, the first new approvals since June 2013. "The increasingly slow and unpredictable approval process resulted in large-scale trade disruptions", the report said.
"Despite these challenges, China is expected to remain a significant importer of biotech products, notably soybeans" the report added.
China imports biotech soybeans, cotton, corn, and soybeans for feed and processing. In recent times, China has also become a large importer of distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS), a corn by-product from ethanol production commonly used in animal feed.
According to the report, China accounts for roughly 2/3 and 1/2 of global soybean and DDGS imports, respectively, most of which are produced from GM varieties. China does not allow the import of biotech seeds for commercial cultivation.-Rick Alberto