GMOs are a hot societal topic within China. For a long time, China’s policy with respect to GMOs has been, “proactively research, cautiously promote, manage with order, and scientifically develop”. In 2009, the State Council approved a special science and technology fund of around $3 billion for research into new GMO varieties, with the objective to develop high quality varieties with intellectual property rights, that are disease resistant, high quality, high yielding and efficient.
However, GMOs aren’t without controversy. There are scholars in China that oppose GMOs taking the view that there are unstudied side effects of genetically modified agricultural products, including the potential to cause tumours or other serious diseases in humans.
The unsettled controversy has held up the commercialisation of GMO crops in China for many years.
In the past two years, there has been some progress in the domestic research and development of genetically modified corn and soybean. In January 2020, the MARA published the 2019 list of safety certificates (production and application) issued to agricultural GMOs, which covers two domestic varieties of genetically modified insect-resistant and herbicide-resistant corn and a variety of herbicide-resistant soybean. This was a huge leap since the last safety certificate issued to domestic crops in 2009.