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Nation poised to import more GMO products

By Zhong Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-08 06:38

Nation poised to import more GMO products

China's recent move to allow imports of genetically modified Argentine corn could be a sign that the country is ready to buy more GMO food products from the global market.

Argentina's Ministry of Agriculture said on Wednesday that China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine cleared 60,000 metric tons of GMO Argentine corn, which will be processed as chicken and hog feed.

The first shipment of Argentine GMO corn entered China on Friday. The corn was exported by Bunge Ltd's Argentina branch and imported by COFCO, China's largest grain trader, after orders from two animal feed processors in southern China.

China has bought foreign corn before, but this is the first time that the country's demand for the grain has pushed the government to import such a large shipment of GMO corn from Argentina.

Gustavo Martino, the Argentine ambassador to China, said that China's feed industry will benefit from more diversified sources of grain supply and increased competition in the market, which is now dominated by a sole supplier - the United States - which has 99 percent of the country's corn import market.

"After this, we should expect more shipments to come from Argentina next year, because import licenses have already been granted in China and it's likely that Argentine corn from the last harvest has already been sold," Martino said.

"Both Argentina and US corn are GMO corn, where the level of biotech production has reached around 90 percent of their respective domestic total for corn production," he added.

In the first half of the year, the Ministry of Agriculture has approved imports of seven types of GMO crops, including three kinds of soybeans and two types of corn and cotton. The valid period for imports of the products runs from 2013 to 2018.

"Importing GMO corn can be a useful method to prevent the inflation of corn prices, which is caused by unpredictable shortages, speculation and unfavorable weather conditions," said Yang Dongcai, a researcher at the Beijing-based institute of bio-technology at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

"The current level of Chinese corn production is very high on an Asian basis but, on a global basis, it's still at a level where improvements can be made," Yang said.

Yang said the government has realized this and is paying close attention to GMO crops, because it wants to boost corn production beyond the current levels.

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