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China to adopt genetically modified maize and soy

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    29th Jun, 2022

Context

The Chinese National Crop Variety Approval Committee cleared the path for cultivating genetically modified (GM) crops.

About

  • China released two standards that clear the path for the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops in China.
  • In China, GM crop varieties need to receive both a safety certificate and a “variety approval” before they can be commercially cultivated.
  • Various genetically modified maize and soybean varieties have received the safety certificate since 2019.
  • But none has yet received variety approval due to the absence of standards. Now these are available, the approval and commercialisation of such GM crops are on the horizon.

Impact of such a move:

  • Improvement in yields: The change in regulations would potentially lead to an improvement in yields. This is aligned with China’s ambition of becoming self-sufficient in essential grains and oilseeds in the coming years. There are specific targets in products like pork, where the country wants to produce 95% of its consumption by 2025.
  • Pressure on global prices: China is one of the world’s largest maize and soybean importers. The country accounted for 13% of global maize imports in 2021 and roughly 60% of the world’s soybean imports. Reducing import volumes is likely to lead to downward pressure on global prices.
  • Impact on South Africa: It will have an impact on the long-term growth of the South Africa’s agricultural sector. South Africa is a net exporter of maize, and increase in production in other parts of the world could bring increased competition and downward pressure on prices in the medium term.
  • Positive impact on consumers: A reduction in the global maize and soybeans prices would be positive for consumers and the livestock and poultry sectors.

GM Crops:

  • A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.
  • For example, a GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination.

What are the potential benefits of GM Plants?

In the developed world, there is clear evidence that the use of GM crops has resulted in significant benefits. These include:

  • Higher crop yields
  • Reduced farm costs
  • Increased farm profit
  • Safer environment
  • More nutritious food

How are GM Crops made?

  • GM crops are made through a process known as genetic engineering.
  • Genes of commercial interest are transferred from one organism to another.
  • Two primary methods currently exist for introducing transgenes into plant genomes-:
  1. The first involves a device called a ‘gene gun’. The DNA to be introduced into the plant cells is coated onto tiny particles of gold or tungsten. These particles are then physically shot onto plant cells and incorporated into the genomic DNA of the recipient plant.
  2. The second method uses a bacterium to introduce the gene(s) of interest into the plant DNA.
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