February 20, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- DowJones: China's
Ministry of Agriculture has approved permanent import
safety certificates for genetically modified, or GMO,
varieties of soybeans, corn and cotton produced by U.S.
agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MON - News) ,
a western diplomatic source told Dow Jones Newswires
The ministry's approvals pave the way for uninterrupted
imports of Monsanto's RoundUp Ready Soybeans as well
as two of its GMO corn varieties and two of its GMO
cotton varieties, the source said.
"We understand that as (the ministry) has promised
U.S. officials, it has completed the safety assessment...and
told Monsanto to pickup the official notice on Monday
morning," the source said, without specifying when
the actual safety import certificates will be issued
or will officially go into effect.
The ministry will also likely post the notification
on its official Web site Monday, the source said.
China has yet to approve an additional six GMO corn
varieties and an unspecified number of transgenic canola
strains from various exporting countries.
The approval marks the removal of a persistent irritant
to trade relations with exporting countries such as
the U.S. since the agriculture ministry and the General
Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and
Quarantine, or AQSIQ, issued new GMO agricultural product
import regulations in January 2002. Approximately 70%
of the U.S. soybean crop consists of GMO varieties.
The rules have been criticized as non-transparent,
unpredictable technical barriers to trade that stoked
market uncertainty that cost U.S. soybean growers, shippers
and traders more than $200 million in the 2001-2002
U.S. trade officials subsequently negotiated an interim
agreement that was extended twice in the past two years
to allow uninterrupted trade of GMO imports while Chinese
authorities conducted safety assessments of the products
needed to comply with the new import regimen.
While China has previously approved the import of specific
varieties of GMO cotton to help feed the country's booming
textile industry, these latest approvals are the first
for GMO food products.
The ministry's decision bodes well for the future of
GMO food imports to China, the diplomatic source said.
"These final approvals should eliminate any uncertainty
about biotechnology as a trade barrier and remove some
uncertainty in (GMO agricultural product) trade, "
the source said.