China’s Food Security: Commercial use of genetically modified corn and soybeans approved.
According to a report in the South China Morning Post, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has approved genetically modified (GM) varieties of corn and soybean for commercial use after years of trials and public controversy over the technology’s safety.
The shift comes as China renews its focus on food security and self-sufficiency, particularly for the mostly imported soybean sector. China has made food security a top priority against a background of a host of US sanctions and global food supply chain uncertainties, which have brought the stability of imports into question, particularly those sourced from hostile countries such as the USA.
Genetically modified corn and soybean were the subject of a pilot program resulting in GM varieties obtaining safety certificates for production and application in 2022, after an assessment of food and environmental safety that lasted nearly 10 years. Prior to this week’s decision by Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affair, the application of GM technology in agriculture was limited to papaya and cotton.
A total of 37 GM corn varieties and 14 GM soybean varieties will be now allowed to be grown in designated areas as of November 152023. China’s food imports amounted to 146 million tons last year, of which 60% was soybeans, which is partly attributed to an unwillingness by domestic farmers to cultivate due to the low yield of existing varieties.
The decision is likely to mark the beginning of a new era for China’s seed industry and is expected to improve self-sufficiency for its 1.4-billion-strong population while moderating a sizeable food trade deficit.
South China Morning Post, 19 Oct, 2023. https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3238523/china-adopts-gm-technology-corn-soybeans-major-food-security-manoeuvre
China Daily, 12 Jan, 2022. https://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202201/12/WS61de3494a310cdd39bc80870.html