BEIJING, CHINA – The Chinese government has announced plans to change the country’s seed regulations which would pave the way for commercializing genetically modified (GM) corn, Reuters reported.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs’ proposed changes mean that a handful of recently approved GM traits developed by Chinese companies could be ready for market launch within a year.

China, which in recent months has publicly stated its desire to become more self-sufficient in grain, has never permitted planting of GM soybeans or corn even though they can be imported for use in animal feed.

After importing an average of about 4 million tonnes of corn annually between 2013 and 2019, China has imported 29.5 million and 26.0 million tonnes in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

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

Origin Agritech Ltd., a Chinese agriculture technology company, announced on Nov. 15 that its new GM corn trait has finished its environmental release trials and is in preparations for production trials (the fourth stage in the five-stage process to receive its bio-safety certificate).

The trait was developed in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences Institution of Biotechnology and provides both pest and pesticide resistance.  The trait is the furthest along of any trait with similar resistances currently in the approval pipeline, the company said.

Commenting on the development, Wei Han, Origin's vice president of business development said, "As China moves towards its GMO positive future, this new corn trait will allow us to be competitive in the GMO corn market for many years to come,” he said. “It will help with both increasing yields to ensure the country's food security and decreasing the need for toxic insecticides."