China will further step up its oversight of the seed market to prevent illegal commercial cultivation of unauthorized genetically modified varieties, an agricultural official said on Wednesday [13 April 2016], after several cases of illegal cultivation were investigated by authorities last year. However, Liao Xiyuan, head of the Department of Science, Technology and Education under the Ministry of Agriculture, told a news conference on Wednesday that the country could push forward the commercial cultivation of pest-resistant GM corn varieties in the next five years. Liao said the country will increase oversight of GM crops in research and development, registration and production phases to prevent unapproved varieties from flowing into the markets…Full Article: China Daily Apr 2016

Key Points

  • According the Ministry of Agriculture’s Director of the Department of Science, Technology and Education, China will institute a “three-step” approval process for GM seed adoption. The first step involves approving non-edible crops (e.g. cotton), followed by processed/animal feed crops (e.g. corn), and lastly staple crops. The emphasis is that GM corn seed would be the first staple/animal feed crop approved for cultivation.
  • As of 2016, Wu Kongming is the Chairman of China’s National Biosafety Committee (NBC), the agency in charge of the country’s GM seed review and approval process.
  • In 2015, Chinese authorities in Xinjiang Region and Gansu Province destroyed more than 66 hectares (ha) of corn over the use of illicit corn seeds. During the same year, Chinese authorities on Hainan Island destroyed more than 6 ha of corn over the use of illicit seeds.
  • In 2015, China cultivated GM cotton on 3.3. million ha (primarily in Xinjiang Region) and GM papaya on 10,000 ha (primarily in Southern China). China also allowed for the importation of 16 varieties of GM corn, 12 GM varieties of soybeans, and seven varieties of GM rapeseed (canola).

ChinaAg Comments

  • Officially, the most widely planted edible GM crop that can be purchased at the local Chinese market is GM papaya. China’s GM papaya variety, Huanong No. 1, differs from GM cotton and GM poplar in that it has been modified to be disease-resistant and not insect-resistant.
  • China grows a wide variety of GM plants including GM cotton (e.g. GK12, SGK321). Introduced in 1997 (GK12) and 1999 (SGK321), GM cotton is the most widely cultivated GM crop in China. In 2014, GM cotton was planted on approximately 3.9 million hectares, or roughly 93% of China’s total cotton planting area.
  • In August 2009, China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) issued safety certificates for Huazhong Agricultural University’s two GM rice varieties (e.g. Shanyou 63 and Huahui-1/TT51-1) in Hubei Province and for Origin Agritech’s (Beijing-based company) GM corn variety (e.g. BVLA430101) in Shandong Province. In August 2014, China’s MOA let the safety certificates expire only to quietly re-issue them in January 2015.

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