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China announces plans to issue biosafety certificates to domestic GM soybean and corn

China's agriculture ministry said on Monday it plans to issue biosafety certificates to a domestically grown, genetically modified (GM) soybean crop and two corn crops, in a move towards commercialising GM grain production in the world's top market.

2 January 2020, at 9:00am

China will grant the certificate to SHZD32-01 soybean developed by Shanghai Jiaotong University, provided there is no objection during a 15-day period soliciting public opinion, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in a statement.

If approved, it will become China's first GM soybean crop to receive such a certificate, a first step towards commercialised production.

Dabeinong's DBN9936 corn and double-stacked 12-5 corn developed by Hangzhou Ruifeng Biotech Co Ltd and Zhejiang University were also expected to receive the certificate.

Beijing has spent billions of dollars researching GM crops, but has held back from commercial production of any food grains because of consumer concerns about their safety.

China granted biosafety certificates to its first GM corn varieties and two domestic rice varieties in 2009, but has never moved to commercialise these crops.

Some in the industry believe Beijing's most recent move could mean that China is ready to start commercialisation of some domestic GM crops.

"This signifies the policy changes from the central government as China is moving to commercialise GMO corn," said James Chen, chief financial officer of Origin Agritech Limited

"GMO corn commercialisation would benefit Chinese farmers, especially those in northeastern China," Chen said.

Origin Agritech received biosafety certificates for its phytase GM corn trait in 2009 and has several new varieties of GM corn in the pipeline for biosafety approval, including insect resistance and glyphosate tolerance double-stacked traits.

China has said it aims to push forward the commercialisation of GM corn and soybeans by 2020. Beijing has long approved imports of these products.

"If the government actually issues the certificate, it will be significant progress," said another source with a major developer of GM crop strains in China.

"But it really depends on whether the crops can be commercialised in the end," added the source, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

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