The new guidelines, released Monday by China’s Ministry of Agriculture, come amid a series of measures aimed at boosting China’s seed industry, which is seen as a ‘weak link‘ in feeding the world’s largest population. Beijing has also recently adopted new regulations setting a roadmap for the approval of genetically modified crops.
According to the published draft text, genetically modified plants will undergo field inspection after completing their pilot trials and will be able to apply for a production certificate. It is not yet known how many companies or institutes are ready to apply for the approval of regulated products.
Chinese researchers have used gene-editing technology to create vitamin C-rich lettuce seeds and herbicide-resistant rice, the Global Times reported.
In late 2020, the Chinese leadership said the country must use science and technology for an urgent “turnaround” in the seed industry, which has long struggled with overcapacity and little innovation.
In its report published in December last year, Rabobank stated that “given the Chinese government’s strong investment in genome editing, we expect a relatively open policy to be published in the coming years.”
China’s research institutes have published more research on genetically modified crops than any other country.
Gene technology makes crops faster than conventional breeding or genetic modification and lowers the cost. The Chinese government, which imports a significant portion of vegetable seeds, also wants to reduce its dependence on overseas breeding.
“It’s an endless opportunity to develop crops more precisely and much more efficiently,” said Han Gengchen, president of seed company Origin Agritech (SEED.O), of the new regulation.