China cites public opinion in GMO soybean approval delay -sources

BEIJING, Sept 26 (Reuters) - China has suspended the import approval process for a genetically modified soybean variety, citing “low public acceptance” of GMO food, according to two people familiar with the matter.

It is the first time that China’s Ministry of Agriculture, has cited public opinion as a reason for delaying approval of a GMO crop, the sources said.

The decision could fuel wider agribusiness concerns over an increasingly tough environment for GMO crops in China.

“Previously if the MoA decided not to approve a new product, it would be because of not enough data,” said an executive with an industry association, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“But this year, the reason is because they are considering social acceptance problems.”

The sources declined to identify the soybean variety involved. China accounts for about 60 percent of globally traded soybeans.

China currently allows the import of eight genetically modified soybean products and 15 corn products, which are largely used in animal feed rather than food for human consumption.

A GMO corn variety grown in the United States, Syngenta’s MIR162, has not been approved for import by China, causing Beijing to turn away almost 1 million tonnes of U.S. corn cargoes since November last year.

Analysts have linked the rejection to China’s large domestic corn supplies, but GMO food is also struggling to win over public opinion after a series of media reports in recent years alleging purported health risks. (Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Richard Pullin.)