China plans overhaul of seed rules to pave way for GMO approvals

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BEIJING (Businesshala) – China has laid out a clear path for seed manufacturers to gain approval for genetically modified crops that should lead to commercial cultivation of GM corn under proposed rule changes.

FILE PHOTO: Farmers sow seeds in a corn field at a field in Gaocheng, Hebei province, China, September 30, 2015. Businesshala/Kim Kyung-hoon/File photo

Details of the planned regulatory overhaul for the seed industry were published by the agriculture ministry on Friday in a draft document that is open for public comment till December 12.

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The proposed changes mean that some of the recently approved GM traits developed by Chinese companies could be ready for market launch in a year’s time.

Liu Shi, vice president of Beijing Dabinong Technology Group Co., Ltd., said, “This is a major step, which has made many GM traits safe and is expected to be one of the first firms to commercialize GM corn in China.

Shares in Dabeinong fell 6% on Monday, while shares of rival Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture Co Ltd fell 10%.

China’s leadership last year called for an immediate “turnaround” in the seed industry, which is grappling with overcapacity and rampant infringement of intellectual property that has stifled innovation.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in its statement that the changes implement decisions by the cabinet and the ruling Communist Party’s powerful Central Committee on the safe management of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and the development of a modern seed industry.

Top policymakers have also urged advances in biotechnological breeding, or GM crops, which are seen as the key to ensuring food security.

Beijing has been cautious, except for planting GM soybeans or corn, despite allowing imports for use in animal feed, investing heavily in GM research and development over the years.

Once approved, China could plant 33 million hectares with GM corn, Huan Securities estimated in a note on Sunday, generating up to 5 billion yuan in income, while building strong market leaders and booming industry. Running integration from .

The proposed changes would bring China’s regulations in line with other markets.

If a GM trait, also known as an ‘event’, has already been approved as safe by the Ministry of Agriculture, for example, it can be integrated into an already approved corn hybrid, And it only need one year production test to verify it. The combination is still safe.

Previously, it was thought that China may have to make the product go through all the safety tests from scratch once again.

“It clarifies and simplifies the process for GMO variety approval,” said Han Gengchen, president of Origin Agritech Ltd., the first Chinese company to develop GM corn crops.

“It will accelerate commercial production of GMO corn.”

It is still unclear when the first commercial crops will be approved.

Dabeinong is now ready to begin production trials for its DBN9936 insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant corn, Liu said, and to scale its in-bred lines to produce enough native seed to prepare it for commercial sale. Also doing “bulk”.

If production trials are completed by the end of 2022 and approval is granted, Debinong could begin small-scale commercial sales in spring 2023.

Liu said it was unclear whether Beijing would recognize previous field demonstration tests conducted by Debinong and allow earlier approvals.

Hangzhou Ruifeng Biotech Co., Ltd., in which Yuan Longping holds a 41.8% stake, also holds an insect-resistant, herbicide-tolerant GM event that is recognized by China as safe.

Reporting by Dominic Patton; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Clarence Fernandez and Simon Cameron-Moore

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