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Daily News Archive
From March 19, 2002

China Will Import US GE Soybeans

Caving to pressure of the U.S., China has announced a temporary certification scheme for imports of genetically engineered (GE) foods. The announcement came after months of negotiations with U.S. trade officials and under the threat of a WTO complaint.

Soybean exports from the U.S. to China, the world's largest soybean importer, are valued at US$1 billion annually. Pressure was brought to bear at the highest levels of government to ensure that U.S. farmers would be able to export their soybeans, 70% of which are genetically engineered to be resistant to Monsanto's herbicide glyphosate..

Originally, the Chinese regulations required labeling for all GE imports and required companies exporting products to China to apply for safety certificates stating that their products are harmless to humans, animals and the environment. The regulations were scheduled to go into effect March 20 of this year, and the certificates would have taken up to 270 days to obtain.

Now, The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture will issue temporary safety certificates to GE food exporters if they have a similar certificate from their own third country. The temporary certificates will take only 30 days to obtain and will remain in effect until December 20, 2002.

Prior to the announcement, U.S. soybean exports to China had virtually halted in the face of the deadline for implementation of new Chinese biotechnology regulations. Importers in China had stopped placing orders for soybeans, and exporters in the U.S. has stopped sending shipments, fearing that the product would be rejected at the border.

China is the single largest market for U.S. soybeans, buying 5.2 metric tons since last year. American farm groups had urged the U.S. government to pressure China on trade issues. At least two biotechnology firms had hired a lawyer in New York to strategize and consider potential "action" should China proceed with the regulations.