China approves eight biotech crops — a promising development

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has welcomed China’s positive development: The country has decided to allow the import of biotech crops, including two that had been on the waiting list for more than 10 years.

About eight genetically modified crops, including alfalfa, created by BIO member Bayer, and canola, developed by BIO member Corteva, will be allowed into China, according to a recent announcement.

The decision is “a positive step towards resolving the longstanding challenges biotechnology developers face in obtaining import approvals in China,” said BIO.

Meeting in the middle on biotech regulation

According to Reuters, China has not yet approved the production of any significant transgenic food crops, and the nation’s hesitation to accept biotech crops is generally seen to be motivated more by politics than by science.

According to the Phase One Agreement signed between China and the U.S. in 2020, China agreed to “reduce the application review time for products for animal feed or for further processing to no more than 24 months, on average,” according to the USDA.

The agreement further says that China will “work with the United States to strengthen communication on biotechnology regulation, to increase mutual understanding, and to monitor implementation of this agreement.”

Building biotech relationships by setting reachable goals

According to USDA’s trade undersecretary Alexis Taylor, access to biotechnology is crucial for solving issues like high pricing and global food security. The development also gives American producers access to a sizable market.

“We’re reinvesting in that relationship,” the USDA undersecretary said. “There is an opportunity coming out of the past several years. There are areas of collaboration to invest in with that Chinese relationship,” Taylor said.

“BIO welcomes these approvals and sees this as a positive step toward resolving the longstanding challenges biotechnology developers face in obtaining import approvals in China,” says Beth Ellikidis, BIO’s VP for Agriculture and Environment. “BIO urges the U.S. government to continue to engage with China to fully comply with the ‘Phase One’ commitments, including finalizing submission approvals within two years. Honoring these commitments will help China implement a transparent, predictable, efficient, science- and risk-based regulatory process.”

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