After a series of environment and food safety tests on seven genetically modified crop strains - all from Monsanto - China's ministry of agriculture last week awarded its first batch of safety certificates for foreign genetically modified crops used for processing purposes in China.
"China's decision to issue final safety certificates for Roundup Ready soybeans is good news for US farmers, as well as for Chinese consumers who rely on imports of high quality soybeans to be processed into cooking oil and livestock feed," said American Soybean Association (ASA) president Ron Heck.
"In the past, ASA has expressed concern about the willingness of China's regulatory agencies to repeatedly move the regulatory target for approval of Roundup Ready soybeans," he added. Emphasizing that the ASA is pleased the 'announcement actually comes well before the scheduled April 20 expiration of the interim safety certificate program.'
This is the first permanent approval issued by China for imports of a food commodity produced through modern biotechnology, the US trade office.
Chinese requirements state shipments of the GMO crops be accompanied by details of the contract, such as the buyer, intended processor, and information on any entities that will store the crop. In addition, China will require that shipments include documentation showing that the government of the country in which the crop was grown also has approved the crop for sale in its market.
'This second requirement could prove troublesome for Brazil, which grows large volumes of GMO crops even though the Brazilian government has yet to formally approve these crops,' said the ASA. According to the industry body, Brazilian officials have sent an informal letter to China saying that GMO crops are being grown in Brazil, but it is not known whether this would be enough to satisfy China's ministry of agriculture, and if Brazilian crops could enter China based on US approvals, or whether Brazil would have to take formal steps to approve GMOs itself.
Under the new system, MOA must approve GMO crops as safe before traders can apply for safety certificates and import the crops.
For the first five months of the current marketing year, US soybean sales to China reached 8.3 million metric tons, more than a third of total US soybean sales to all export destinations.
In 2003, US agricultural exports to China reached a record of nearly $5 billion, mostly due to exports of soybeans that brushed the $2.9 billion mark.