China Greenlights Imports of Two New GMO Products

By Brian Spegele in Beijing Features Dow Jones Newswires

China has approved imports of two new varieties of genetically modified crops, drawing praise from U.S. industry representatives who have sought to pry open more access to its vast agricultural market.

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The decision, announced Wednesday, will allow U.S. giants Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co. to export genetically altered corn and soybean varieties to China, and comes after Beijing agreed to speed up reviews of biotechnology applications as part of a trade deal with the Trump administration last month.

China's Ministry of Agriculture said imports of the new products could begin this week. Specifically, the ministry approved imports of Dow AgroSciences' Enlist corn variety and Monsanto's Vistive Gold soybean.

In addition, 14 other genetically modified crop varieties were renewed for importing into China.

The decision "is a positive step," said Zhang Xiaoping, China representative for the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

China's decision to allow new imports of genetically modified crops comes as the government struggles to balance a desire to boost farms' productivity with a deep mistrust of such crops by its citizens.

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There is a general scientific consensus in the U.S. that GMO crops are safe. But in China, doubts remain. While the government has said it believes genetically modified crops are safe in principle, it has been cautious about approving new varieties for imports, fearing a public backlash.

Unlike in the U.S., China doesn't permit planting of genetically modified seeds for staple grains such as corn and soybeans. Loosening those restriction is one measure that would help boost yields at Chinese farms, say industry executives, a huge goal for China's government as it strives to feed its growing middle class.

State-owned China National Chemical Corp.'s recent deal to buy Switzerland's Syngenta AG -- a major developer of genetically modified seeds -- brought such issues to the forefront of a public dialogue over genetically altered crops in China. Many foreign executives hope such a deal by a major Chinese state-owned enterprise could help open the market for more genetically modified crops over time.

The U.S. Commerce Department said in May that eight U.S. biotechnology applications were pending in China. DuPont Co. says while it has yet to receive approval for an insect-control trait for corn it is seeking in China, it was "encouraged by the fast progress" of China's government in the latest approvals, and looked forward to the approval of additional products.

Yang Jie contributed to this article

Write to Brian Spegele at brian.spegele@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 14, 2017 09:09 ET (13:09 GMT)