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Over 50 GM corn, soybean varieties approved for commercial use

By LI LEI | | Updated: 2023-12-08 16:39
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Authorities have approved 51 genetically modified corn and soybean varieties for commercial production in China after a three-year trial of planting such crops in selected regions across the country.

The approval is the first of its kind given by the Chinese government to staple food crops, further expanding the commercial use of GM technologies long restricted to cotton and papaya.

The decision was announced in a Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs circular on its website on Thursday.

The circular said the approved crops include 37 GM corn varieties and 14 GM soybean varieties, which have been bred for stronger herbicide or insect resistance and produce higher yields.

Such properties are considered crucial to safeguarding food supply and reducing labor input as farming population is absorbed by urban factories and those remaining in rural homes are fast-aging.

For example, an approved corn candidate developed by Beijing Lantron Seed Co has demonstrated a strong resistance against Asian corn borer, a destructive pest particularly in China and the Philippines, the ministry said.

The strain also survived four times the amount of herbicide acceptable for conventional corn varieties. A trail planting of the variety in 2021 showed that its yield reached more than 13 metric tons per hectare, which is 7.5 percent higher than non-GM varieties, it said.

Another approved soybean variety developed by Dabeinong Group was tested to ripe three days earlier than its conventional counterparts, and showed a strong resistance to two major types of herbicides used by soybean farmers.

A trail planting in 2020 showed it could boost yield by more than 6 percent to more than 2.6 tons each hectare, the ministry said.

The GM varieties were greenlighted as part of a national drive to commercialize the production of homegrown GM corn and soybean amid rising protectionism and food security concerns induced by climate change, the pandemic and regional conflicts.

Before their formal approval, the GM candidates had been tested in various environments outside lab settings in 20 counties in Hebei, Jilin, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces, and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

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