China expands pilot planting of GM corn, soybean crops to more regions
Published: Aug 24, 2023 10:26 PM
Soybean Photo: VCG

Soybean Photo: VCG

China is expanding the pilot planting of genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans, aiming to accelerate the commercialization of biological breeding.

The pilot GM planting began in 2021, and it was expanded to farmland in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Southwest China's Yunnan Province in 2022.

The pilot program was then expanded to 20 counties in five provincial-level regions - Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Jilin, Sichuan and Yunnan. 

Seed production was arranged in Northwest China's Gansu Province, according to the Farmers' Daily article, which was posted on the official website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on Thursday. 

The GM corn and soybean crops had outstanding performances in terms of pest and herbicide resistance in the pilot projects. The control effect on Lepidoptera pests surpassed 90 percent, and the weeding effect was above 95 percent.

The yields of GM corn and soybeans were up by 5.6 to 11.6 percent, respectively.

GM is a topic with many conflicts. The article explained that biological breeding is a new stage of breeding development. Generally speaking, crop breeding has experienced natural selection, hybrid breeding and biological breeding, and it is very likely to enter the era of intelligent breeding in the future.

Biological breeding represented by GM is a revolutionary technology in the field of breeding, and it is a new field and new track that must be seized, it said. 

The technique has played an irreplaceable role in boosting crop production, reducing the harm from diseases and insect pests, and saving labor costs.

"If we keep refusing to apply such a revolutionary technology, it will be difficult for our agricultural technology level and industrial competitiveness to really improve, and then there will be a big gap with foreign countries that will continue to widen, and then we will be truly 'controlled by others,'" it said. 

Take the US, the world's largest producer and consumer of GM crops. According to the calculations used in the article, in 1995, when GM crops were not yet commercially applied in the US, the average yield per mu for corn reached 475 kilograms and 158 kilograms for soybeans. 

By 2022, the planting area of GM corn and soybeans in the US had exceeded 90 percent, and the average yield reached 725 kilograms for corn and 222 kilograms for soybeans.

The article also rebuts some common concerns, such as that GM food causes cancer and infertility, and it will even affect future generations. "Those are all rumors," it said. 

It's also a rumor that Western people do not consume GM food, it said.

The US, as one of the biggest GM providers, has proved 22 GM crops to industrialization. In recent years, about 73.33 million hectares of GM crops have been planted each year in the US, accounting for more than 40 percent of its arable land area, of which more than 90 percent is planted with GM crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and sugar beets. 

About 50 percent of the soybeans and more than 80 percent of the corn produced in the US will be consumed domestically, it said.

The EU imports GM products heavily every year, including soybeans, corn and canola. Data showed that the EU imported 15 million tons of GM soybeans in 2021, accounting for 90 percent of total soybean imports. It also imported more than 3 million tons of GM corn, accounting for about 30 percent of total corn imports.

After decades of research and development, China has already established a relatively solid foundation of biological breeding. Promoting industrial application is conducive to speeding up China's independent innovation and enhancing competitiveness, it said.