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China Grants Safety Approval to Gene-Edited Soybean Crop

China has granted safety approval for a gene-edited soybean, marking the country's first endorsement of the technology in a crop. This move is in line with China's growing reliance on science to enhance food production.

Shivam Dwivedi
China Grants Safety Approval to Gene-Edited Soybean Crop (Pic Credit- The Western Producer)
China Grants Safety Approval to Gene-Edited Soybean Crop (Pic Credit- The Western Producer)

The soybean, which was created by Shandong Shunfeng Biotechnology Co., Ltd, a privately owned company, contains two modified genes that substantially increase the amount of beneficial oleic acid in the plant.

According to a document published last week by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the safety certificate has been approved for five years beginning April 21. Gene editing, as opposed to genetic modification, which introduces foreign genes into a plant, modifies existing genes.

The technology is regarded as less dangerous than GMOs and is less strictly controlled in several nations, like China, which established gene-editing regulations last year. "The approval of the safety certificate is a shot in the arm for the Shunfeng team," the company said in a Reuters statement on Thursday.

Shunfeng claims to be China's first company to commercialise gene-edited crops. According to a company spokeswoman, it is currently exploring roughly 20 different gene-edited crops, including higher yielding rice, wheat, and corn, herbicide-resistant rice and soybeans, and vitamin C-rich lettuce.

Calyxt, a business based in the United States, also produced a high oleic soybean, yielding a healthy oil that was the first gene-edited product to be approved in the United States in 2019. Before Chinese farmers may plant the innovative soybean, several other stages must be completed, including the approval of seed varieties containing the modified genes.

The permission comes at a time when trade tensions, erratic weather, and war in key grain exporter Ukraine have heightened Beijing's anxieties about feeding the country's 1.4 billion people. A burgeoning middle class is likewise confronted with an increase in diet-related sickness. China is also pursuing GMO crops, with large-scale trials of GM maize beginning this year.

However, because there are fewer steps in the regulatory procedure, getting gene-edited crops to market should be faster. In addition to the United States, Japan has approved gene-edited goods such as healthier tomatoes and faster-growing fish.

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