CHINA – China has approved the planting of dozens of genetically modified (GM) corn and soybean seed varieties in a move aimed at enhancing food security and reducing reliance on foreign supplies.

As the world’s leading importer of soybeans and corn, this development aligns with China’s push for food self-sufficiency, a top priority for President Xi Jinping.

The approval, which includes 37 GM corn seed and 14 soybean seed varieties, was granted by a national committee established by the agriculture ministry. This move supports the government’s ongoing efforts to boost agricultural production and ensure food security.

The approved list features several key varieties, including four corn strains developed by China National Seed Group, a unit of Syngenta Group, and five soybean varieties from Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group.

These varieties have undergone preliminary review and are now open for public review until November 15. The actual planting areas for these GM seed varieties, following final approval, will align with government directives and plans.

Pilot program expansion and potential impact

China initiated a pilot program for commercial GM corn and soybean cultivation in 2021. The program’s scope has expanded this year to encompass 20 counties in five provinces, including major grain-producing regions like Hebei and Jilin.

Despite this expansion, the total acreage designated for GM crop cultivation remains relatively small, reaching approximately 4 million mu (267,000 hectares) this year, reports Bloomberg.

However, this move holds the potential to significantly impact China’s agricultural landscape, as GM varieties could increase yields by up to 12% in the country.

Market response and economic impact

Following the announcement, shares of Chinese seed companies experienced notable gains. Dabeinong saw a surge of 10%, reaching the daily limit, while Yuan Longping High-tech Agriculture Co. recorded an increase of over 8%.

Estimates suggest that the national market for GM corn seed could be valued at around 60 billion yuan ($8.2 billion), highlighting the economic significance of this decision.

In approving these GM varieties, China aims to fortify its agricultural sector, enhance domestic production, and achieve greater food security—a crucial step toward ensuring the nation’s long-term self-sufficiency in the face of global challenges.