The Chinese government’s plans to change the country’s seed regulations are set to pave the way for the commercial production of genetically-modified (GM) corn, according to a Reuters report on 14 November.

Published by the agriculture ministry in a draft document on 12 November, details of the planned regulatory overhaul of the seed industry were open for public comment until 12 December, the report said.

The proposed changes mean that a handful of recently approved GM traits developed by Chinese companies could be ready for market launch in a year, according to the report.

According to Liu Shi, a vice president of Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group, which has several GM traits approved as safe and was expected to be one of the first firms to commercialise GM corn in China, the move was a “big step”.

Last year, China’s leadership had called for an urgent “turnaround” in the seed industry, which was struggling with overcapacity and affected by infringement of intellectual property that has stifled innovation, Reuters wrote.

The changes implemented decisions by the cabinet and the central committee of the ruling Communist Party on the safe management of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and development of a modern seed industry, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in its statement.

Top policymakers had also urged progress in biotech breeding, or GM crops, seen as key to ensuring food security, Reuters wrote.

China has invested heavily in GM research and development for years, according to the report.

However, Beijing had remained cautious, banning the planting of GM soyabeans or corn, while allowing imports for use in animal feed, the report said.

If given approval, China could plant 33M ha with GM corn, Hua’an Securities was quoted as estimating.

The proposed changes would bring China’s regulations more in line with those of other markets, according to the Reuters report.