UPDATE 1-China issues biosafety certificates for domestic GM corn, soybean traits

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BEIJING, Jan 21 (Reuters) - China’s agriculture ministry issued biosafety certificates on Tuesday for domestically grown, genetically modified (GM) corn and soybean traits, moving closer to commercialisation of GM grain production in the world’s top market.

The certificates, valid from Dec. 2, 2019 until Dec. 2, 2024, were granted to a corn trait developed by Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co Ltd and a double-stacked corn product developed by Hangzhou Ruifeng Biotech Co Ltd and Zhejiang University, according to a statement published on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

A GM soybean developed by Shanghai Jiaotong University was also granted the biosafety certificate, the statement said.

The ministry had already announced late last month that it planned to issue the certificates, pending public comment.

Granting of the certificates is one of the last steps required before GMO products can be sold to farmers for planting.

China granted biosafety certificates to its first GM corn varieties and two domestic rice varieties in 2009, but never allowed them to reach the market in part because of widespread public opposition to the technology.

However, Beijing had said it was targeting commercialization of GM corn and soybeans by 2020. It has long allowed the products to be imported to feed to livestock.

The newly approved corn traits, both resistant to pests and herbicide, could boost farmers’ productivity by deterring insects common in the country, including the recently arrived fall armyworm, experts said.

Beijing warned late last year that fall armyworm, first detected in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan in January 2019, is expected to hit more crops across wider areas in 2020, including the key corn-growing region in the northeast.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton, editing by Louise Heavens and Susan Fenton