The Ministry of Agriculture awarded the first batch of safety certificates to US biotechnology company Monsanto this week, indicating that foreign genetically altered crops can now enter China.

This announcement formalized earlier interim agreements with foreign export businesses which were granted temporary permission to trade genetically modified crops, such as soybeans, maize and cotton. When these interim rules expire on April 20, 2004, the Ministry is promising to place the importation of agricultural biotech products under "normal" administrative rules.

Since enacting the new regulations back in 2002, China has received 18 applications for certificates from five foreign biotech crop developers, all requiring safety certificates for imported crops derived through genetic modification. Currently the Ministry has completed environment and food safety testing on seven of them, belonging to Monsanto, which was granted permits for five strains, valid for three to five years. The other two were denied due to lack of necessary information.


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