China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has issued licences to 26 domestic seed companies to produce, distribute and sell genetically modified (GM) corn and soyabean seeds in selected provinces, Reuters reported.

The move was part of China’s ongoing efforts to reduce its reliance on imports, the 28 December report said.

Listed in a notice from the agriculture ministry on 25 December, the companies included Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group and China National Seed, now owned by Syngenta Group. Other licensed companies included those operating in the major grain-producing provinces of Hebei, Liaoning, Jilin and Inner Mongolia.

This was China’s first batch of companies to receive seed production and operation licences for GM corn and soyabeans, the GLOCON Agritech Co-Innovation Institute was quoted as saying in a note, paving the way for commercial planting of the crops.

With Chinese imports of soyabeans and corn totalling approximately 100M tonnes/year and as the world’s leading buyer of both commodities – mainly from Brazil and the USA – improved yields from GM corn and soyabeans could help reduce those imports, World Grain wrote.

China is expected to tightly control the rollout of GM crops, according to the report. Large-scale trials of GM soyabeans and corn were carried out last year, which the agriculture ministry was quoted as saying had shown “outstanding” results.

Chinese corn producers were preparing to plant about 670,000ha of GM corn in eight provinces this year – more than double the area planted in 2023 – three industry sources told Reuters in December.