Business / Companies

US farm firms urge easing of barriers to investment

By Mu Chen (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-05 08:37

United States-based agriculture companies are seeking increased cooperation with China and urging further loosening of investment restrictions and trade barriers, especially in biotechnology, that will help secure safe, affordable food for Chinese consumers, said a report from the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

At the release of the Policy Spotlight on Agriculture report on Wednesday, James Zimmerman, chairman of AmCham China, applauded continued cooperation between US companies and China but said: "There is so much more that can be achieved by increased engagement between companies and government in areas such as seed research, more efficient distribution and freer trade."

The report said that removing restrictions on foreign investment in agriculture and agriculture technology would help unleash domestic productivity potential that enhances food security but also encourages innovation by local companies.

Gao Yong, co-chair of the agriculture forum at AmCham, said: "US companies can contribute and help accelerate China's seed industry modernization by bringing new tools and technologies to China."

The latest draft of the Guiding Catalog on Foreign Investment, released in November, restricted all foreign investment in biotech cultivation, including crop breeding and seed production.

US companies also asked the Ministry of Agriculture to approve genetically modified imports in a timely, transparent and scientific fashion to facilitate trade flows and avoid trade disruption, which supports China's national food security strategy, said Gao.

In December, China approved the MIR 162 strain of GM corn for import. The crop had been blocked since 2013.

Two new strains of soybean developed by DuPont Pioneer, the largest US producer of hybrid seeds for agriculture, and Germany-based Bayer CropScience AG were also approved.

Li Guoxiang, deputy director of the Rural Development Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said: "GM crops have their benefits but also come with significant risks, so the authorities manage them with caution and adhere to strict international approval standards.

"As with any approval process, there might be room for improvement and greater efficiency as long as it does not compromise China's food security."

The AmCham report follows the release of this year's government Document No 1, a policy paper on rural issues, which emphasized the need to strengthen research and safety management of GM food in China.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, the top rural affairs decision-making body, said it is important to change public perceptions of GM food and allow rational voices to be heard.

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