The Chinese government has approved 51 new genetically modified (GM) varieties of corn and soyabeans, Agri Pulse reported.

Although the 51 approvals – 14 soyabean and 37 corn varieties – announced by China’s National Crop Variety Approval Committee were preliminary, they were also expected to allow Chinese corn and soyabean producers to begin using technology that US farmers had been using for decades to eradicate pests, reduce pesticide usage and increase yields, the 25 October report said.

With the approvals open for public comment until 15 November, farmers are expected to begin planting the newly approved varieties next year, according to a report by the Beijing office of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

“Once finalised, listed GM corn and soyabean varieties will be eligible for planting in approved areas, bringing (China) closer to full commercial cultivation of GM corn and soyabeans,” FAS said in the 24 October report. “However, for the foreseeable future, the varieties are likely to only be planted in (Chinese) approved pilot programmes for GM corn and soy[abeans], which will limit the scale of planting in 2024.”

Although a major development in the country’s changing position on its acceptance of GM technology, it was not clear if the new approvals would lead to significant new business for international seed companies, according to industry sources quoted by Agri Pulse.

“Overall, it’s good news … China’s accepting new technology, but it’s not our technology,” one unnamed seed industry representative was quoted as saying.

“Ag biotechnology is still on China’s negative list for foreign domestic investment, meaning foreign countries cannot produce seeds or even license seed technology for use on Chinese farms.”

China had two separate approval processes, including one for international traits and the other for exclusively Chinese companies producing seeds for domestic production, the Agri Pulse report said.

Despite China’s drive to increase production through biotechnology, the two approval pathways did not intersect, except for agricultural science firm Syngenta, which is owned by Chinese state-owned enterprise ChemChina.

Of the 51 newly approved varieties last week, four were produced by the China National Seed Group, a unit of Syngenta. The new approvals highlighted the fact that while the US approval process would not hold back Syngenta’s operations, Chinese regulations barred the USA and other countries from seed approvals, the report said.

Meanwhile, biotech varieties from international companies including BASF, Bayer and Corteva, are being assessed by China’s National Agriculture Biosafety Committee for approval, according to th

Five varieties were waiting for final certificate approval after being on hold for between three and eight years, Agri Pulse wrote.

In the week before the report, China had issued its final approval for a BASF variety of canola, which had first been submitted by the company in 2017, the report said.