China has approved the import of eight genetically modified (GMO) crops, including GMO alfalfa for the first time, the country’s agriculture ministry said on Friday.
Global seed companies have long complained about China’s slow approval process for GM crops, which slows down commercialisation of the products globally if they are not approved by one of the world’s biggest agriculture markets.
Beijing has long taken a cautious approach to GMO technology and has not yet approved any major crops for cultivation, despite President Xi Jinping’s backing of the technology.
It does however allow the import of GM crops used in animal feed or for textiles, but trade partners say its process is not always based on science and has often been driven by politics.
Bayer’s glyphosate-resistant alfalfa or J101 was first submitted for approval in July 2011, when it was owned by U.S. company Monsanto. Its J163 alfalfa, also approved, was submitted more than 10 years ago.
Beijing promised to speed up access to its market under the Phase 1 trade deal concluded with the United States in 2020.
China has also approved a Corteva Agriscience glyphosate-resistant canola, DP73496, first developed by DuPont Pioneer and submitted for approval in July 2012.
Neither Bayer nor Corteva immediately responded to a request for comment.
Two GMO sugar cane traits developed in Brazil were also approved, as well as a BASF herbicide-resistant cotton.
The crops were allowed to be imported for processing in China from Jan. 5 for the next five years.
China also approved the safety of domestically developed GM corn and soybean products for new regions of the country.