HEILONGJIANG, CHINA — Officials in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province — the country’s largest grain-producing province — have passed a five-year ban on the growing, processing and selling of genetically modified crops, according to a Dec. 21 article in the Financial Times.

According to the article, the ban will take effect beginning in May 2017 and will apply to rice, corn and soybeans.

Although Beijing, China, does not currently permit the cultivation of any bioengineered crops except for cotton and papaya, officials in the region have dedicated significant funds into biotechnology research, and in August Beijing officials published plans to develop specific GMO crops, including soybeans and corn for the first time.

Additionally, ChemChina’s pending $43 billion bid for Switzerland’s Syngenta is also seen as an attempt to boost China’s presence in biotechnology, the Financial Times noted.

According to the Financial Times article, the ban was prompted by a survey showing more than 90% of respondents in Heilongjiang had objections to GMO crops. The ban also comes on the heels of a report by Greenpeace earlier this year that found widespread illegal use of GMO crops among farmers in the neighboring province of Liaoning.