GMOs in China
China is currently the sixth largest producer of genetically modified (GM) crops (3.8 million hectares in 2008, behind the United States, Argentina, Brazil, India, and Canada . The Chinese government has granted safety certificates for commercial production of four biotech food and fibre crops, including insect resistant cotton, virus resistant papaya, virus resistant sweet pepper, and delayed ripening tomato. Transgenic plants like poplar and petunia are also approved for production. Among the hundreds of biotech products under development that have been approved for productive testing are insect resistant rice (Bt63), bacterial blight resistant rice (Xa21), high phytase corn, and high oil content canola. Other major crops undergoing field trials include insect resistant corn, high lysine content corn, wheat resistant to pre-harvest germination, and insect resistant soybeans. The regulatory approval of Chinese crops differs significantly from the regulatory approval processes in North America. In one major area alone, in China GM crops are approved by variety in contrast to regulation in North America where crops are regulated by GM event, as ISIS has insisted  (see Biosafety Alert, ISIS report).
In North America the GM event, once approved in a variety can be bred into other varieties or land races without further regulatory approval . The Chinese approach on regulating GM food crops is slower and apparently more reliable than regulatory approval in North America. Approval by variety may leave a dangerous loophole if the ‘variety’ actually includes more than one GM event, as it is in the unreliable, unpredictable nature of genetic modification that each event is unique and differs according as to where and in what form the GM insert has landed, and what kind of collateral damage has been done to the host genome (see  FAQ on Genetic Engineering, ISIS Tutorial).
There is limited private sector research and development in agricultural biotechnology in China . Biotech seed development in China is conducted by public research institutes and universities funded by various parts of the Chinese government, though marketing is often done by affiliated private companies. Foreign investment on research and production of biotech plants, livestock, and aquatic products is prohibited; but it is allowed in conventional seed production. China has approved four biotech crops/products for import as processing materials (soybeans, maize , canola, and cotton). The first batch of safety certificates was granted to imported biotech crops in 2004. The 28 varieties approved for import processing include the following traits: 15 herbicide tolerant, 3 reduced formation of undesirable fatty acids, 5 insect resistant, and 5 insect resistant and herbicide tolerace. Production of seeds for crops that are not genetically modified can be undertaken in partnership with multinational seed producers; but multinational corporation ownership is limited to minority shareholders in joint ventures with Chinese companies.
Corporate activity in China
In spite of the restrictions on production or importation of seed for GM crops and GM seeds produced by international biotech corporations, those companies have extensive presence in China, as they also produce chemical pesticides and seeds that are not genetically modified.
Pioneer has two joint venture companies in China: Shandong Denghai-Pioneer Seed Company and Dunhuang Seed Co. Ltd, a Pioneer International joint venture with China’s biggest seed company. Pioneer established a research centre in China for breeding and testing maize hybrids . Shandong Denghai Seeds Co, holds a 51 percent interest in the joint ventures . Dow AgroSciences also has offices in China marketing crop protection products . Dow-Pioneer GM maize DAS-59122-7 (DAS-59122-7) and TC1507 have been permitted for import and processing in China .
Monsanto has a number of offices in China , and as well a Monsanto owned company Seminis vegetable seeds company (the largest vegetable seed supplier in the world) has offices in China . China has granted permit for import and processing for the following : Monsanto GM maize MON810, MON863, MON88017 and NK603; GMCotton 15985 (BollgardII), MON88913 and531; GM soybean GTS40-3-2; and GM canola GT73.
Syngenta Crop Protection and Investment has sales offices in China , and the following have been granted permit for import and processing: Syngenta GM maize176, Bt11 (X4334CBR, X4734CBR) and MIR604 .
Bayer CropSciences Corporation
Bayer CropSciences has offices in China selling crop protection chemicals , and the following granted permit for import and processing: Bayer GM maize ACS-ZMØØ2-1 / ACS-ZMØØ3-2 (T14, T25); GM Canola Ms1Rf1, Ms1Rf2, Ms8Rf3, Topas19/2, Oxy-235; and T45 GM soy bean A2704-12; and GM cotton LLCOTTON25(1).
Although GM crop seeds for planting have not been marketed in China, the large multinational corporations that produce GM crops have a significant presence in China through the sale and production of seeds that are not genetically modified, and selling crop protection chemicals. The transportation of the imported GM produce designated to for processing are bound to have environmental impacts in China. Oilseed rape (canola) has been studied most extensively with regards to spread of its GM seeds during transportation from fields, along roadways and near shipping ports. Dispersal and persistence of genetically modified oilseed rape around Japanese harbours has been reported . GM oilseed rape growing along a Japanese roadside was tracked for three years; the road leading from a shipping port and extending into the countryside .
Landscape-scale distribution and persistence of GM oilseed rape (Brassica napus) in Manitoba, Canada showed that the ready release of seeds during transportation effectively ruled out the coexistence of GM and non-GM oilseed rape in a region .
Gene flow of two herbicide-tolerant transgenes from oilseed rape to wild B. juncea var. gracilis (Chinese vegetable mustard) in China brings home the fact that GM crops are not only capable of forming feral roadside weed volunteers but their transgenes will be spread to wild relatives .
In conclusion, the extensive importation of GM crops for processing use only is likely to establish populations of feral crop plants bearing genes patented by multinational corporations and contaminate China’s croplands.
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4. China Pioneer HiBred International Inc. http://www.pioneer.com/web/site/portal/menuitem.6d03610cc7e4801a24209e14d10093a0/
5. Research on Shandong Denghai Seed Co. http://chinabizintel.com/expert-advice/research-on-shandong-denghai-seeds-co.-ltd..html
6. Dow AgroSciences China http://www.dowagro.com/china/
7. Monsanto Who We Are Our Locations China http://www.monsanto.com/who_we_are/locations/china.asp
8. Seminis Seeds (Beijing) http://seminis.en.hisupplier.com/
9. Syngenta China http://www2.syngenta.com/en/country/cn.html
10. Bayer China-Bayer CropSciences http://www.bayerchina.com.cn/scripts/pages/en/index.php
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Theor Appl Genet. 2010, 120(8), 1501-10