BEIJING, CHINA — Agriculture technology company Origin Agritech Ltd. announced March 21 that the company, together with its partner China Agricultural University, has submitted applications for biosafety certificates for six newly developed gene edited traits designed to significantly increase the yield of corn crops.

The new traits include change of the leaf angle and improvement in drought tolerance of corn. Changing the leaf angle and plant types will improve the photosynthesis efficiency and increase the planting population, which in turn increases yields, Origin said. The new traits also will improve the water use efficiency and drought tolerance for corn plants. Origin is currently integrating these traits into its commercial hybrid corns, including the company’s nutritionally enhanced corn. 

In late January, China announced that the country would allow gene edited crops and that the approval process would be very streamlined as compared to the process for getting a new GMO trait approved. The policy reflects the fact that gene editing mimics naturally occurring mutations and that no foreign species’ genes are inserted into the plant, in contrast to GMO. The resulting timeline for approval could be as fast as a year as compared to an eight-year approval timeline for GMO traits. Origin’s new corn is among the first gene edited corn in the approval process in China.

“Given the current challenges facing the world of food inflation, environmental change and uncertainty of food exports from certain countries due to geopolitical events, we are thrilled to be playing a major role in improving food security,” said Dr. Gengchen Han, chairman of Origin Agritech.