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China's agricultural authorities issued biosafety certificates to three new overseas varieties of genetically modified soybeans on Thursday, allowing them to be imported as raw materials for domestic processing.
According to a statement from the country's biosafety committee in charge of agricultural genetically modified organisms, the newly approved genetically modified soybeans included CV127 from German chemical producer BASF and MON87701 and MON87701 x MON89788 from Monsanto Far East Ltd.
The three new varieties of genetically modified soybeans, which fare better against insect attacks and herbicide, have been approved for commercial planting or consumption in many countries, it said.
The news follows Monday's statement from Brazil's agriculture ministry, which said on its website that China had approved imports of three varieties of Brazilian genetically modified soybeans.
Antonio Adrade, Brazil's minister of agriculture, livestock and food supply, participated in the China-Latin America and Caribbean Agricultural Ministers' Forum in Beijing on Sunday and confirmed the information the next day.
Imports of Brazil's genetically modified soybeans to China had previously been discussed by Agricultural Minister Han Changfu and Andrade.
The approved soybeans include RR2 PRO, which is resistant to caterpillars, a main threat to bean crops in Brazil. The other two are CV127 and Liberty Link, which have a better resistance against herbicide.
As of April, Brazil had exported 7,154 million tons of soybeans valued at around $3,797 billion — 5,604 million tons were exported to China.
"This decision is very timely for Brazilian soybean farmers," Andrade said, "because the companies will have a few weeks to expand their plantations."
Huang Dafang, a researcher from the Biotechnology Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said on Thursday that China began to import some varieties of genetically modified agricultural products as early as 2003 or 2004 to satisfy domestic demand.
"At present, besides the United States, a substantial proportion of genetically modified agricultural products such as soybeans and corn have been imported from Brazil and Argentina," he said, without providing specific data.
Local demand is mainly driven by increasing domestic need for fodder and food processing, Huang said.
"Besides meeting domestic needs in terms of quantity, imported genetically modified agricultural products are always better than domestic traditional varieties in terms of quality," he said.
For instance, compared with domestic soybeans, imported genetically modified crops have higher oil and protein content, he said.