China Adds GMO Cultivation in Soybeans, Corn
China’s latest five-year plan for science and technology stole headlines last week. The document, published on the Chinese government’s website, presented plans for the country to commence production of GE soybeans and corn, for the first time. To date, China has not permitted the cultivation of GE corn or soybeans, though it has already eased regulations in other GMO markets, such as cotton. The initiative comes as the Asian nation seeks to revamp its crop production infrastructure. The country is the largest global purchaser of soybeans, with imports expected to reach 87.0 million metric tons in the 2016/17 marketing year; corn production is more robust, and, on a net basis, Chinese buyers purchase less from overseas.
While China has long-permitted the import of GE crop varieties, Chinese citizens often prefer non-GMO food products, citing perceived health and environmental risks associated with GMOs. As such, the deregulation of GMO soy varieties—used regularly in food, such as tofu and oils—might face more headwinds than corn, which is generally produced as a feed ingredient. The news of the push for increased GMO production comes at the same time that the country’s government rejected a proposal that would have set aside specific cultivation zones for non-GMO varieties. (Global Times; Reuters; USDA).