BEIJING, Nov 15 (Reuters) - China has laid out a clear path
for seed makers to get approval for genetically modified crops,
under proposed rule changes that should lead to commercial
cultivation of GM corn.
Details of the planned regulatory overhaul for the seed
industry were published on Friday by the agriculture ministry in
a draft document that is open for public comment until Dec. 12.
The proposed changes mean that a handful of recently
approved GM traits developed by Chinese companies could be ready
for market launch in a year.
"It's a big step," said Liu Shi, a vice president of Beijing
Dabeinong Technology Group Co Ltd, which has several
GM traits approved as safe and is expected to be one of the
first firms to commercialise GM corn in China.
Shares of Dabeinong shares fell 6% on Monday, while those of
rival Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture Co Ltd
China's leadership called last year for an urgent
"turnaround" in the seed industry, which is struggling with
overcapacity and rampant infringement of intellectual property
that has stifled innovation.
The changes implement decisions by the cabinet and the
powerful central committee of the ruling Communist Party on safe
management of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and
development of a modern seed industry, the ministry of
agriculture and rural affairs said in its statement.
Top policymakers have also urged progress in biotech
breeding, or GM crops, seen as key to ensuring food security.
While investing heavily in GM research and development for
years, Beijing has remained cautious, barring the planting of GM
soybeans or corn, despite allowing imports for use in animal
Once approved, China could plant 33 million hectares with GM
corn, estimated Hua'an Securities in a note on Sunday,
generating up to 5 billion yuan in income, while also creating
strong market leaders and driving rapid consolidation in the
The proposed changes would bring China's regulations more in
line with those of other markets.
If a GM trait, also known as an 'event', has already been
approved as safe by the agriculture ministry, it can be
integrated into an already approved corn hybrid, for example,
and only requires a one-year production trial to verify that the
combination is still safe.
Previously, it was thought that China might require the
product to once again undergo all safety trials from scratch.
"It clarifies the procedures for GMO variety approvals and
simplifies the process," said Han Gengchen, chairman of Origin
Agritech Ltd, the first Chinese company to develop GM
"It will accelerate GMO corn commercial production."
It is still unclear when the first commercial crops would be
Dabeinong is ready to start production trials now for its
DBN9936 insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant corn, said Liu,
and is also "bulking up" its in-bred lines to produce enough
parent seed to prepare for commercial sales.
If production trials are completed by the end of 2022 and
approval granted, Dabeinong could start small-scale commercial
sales in spring 2023.
It is unclear if Beijing would recognise previous field
demonstration trials done by Dabeinong and allow approval
earlier, said Liu.
Hangzhou Ruifeng Biotech Co Ltd, in which Yuan Longping owns
a 41.8% stake, also has an insect-resistant, herbicide-tolerant
GM event approved as safe by China.
(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Hugh Lawson,
Clarence Fernandez and Simon Cameron-Moore)