context: The standards follow serial regulatory updates in 2021, which clarified the procedure for GMO biosecurity assessment and production license approval. With a batch of domestic GM soybean and corn varieties already holding bio-certificates, leading seed companies are approaching the final stage of approval of GMO commercial production.

MARA (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs) approved national standards for reviewing GM corn and soybean varieties. Qualified GM soybean varieties should meet the requirements of the ‘National soybean variety review standards (2017)’ and the standard for GM soybeans at the same time. The latter includes requests on the effectiveness of the target trait

  • herbicide resistance: in the early growth phase with a compound leaf made up of three-four leaflets, the crop can survive four times the median effective dose of the targeted herbicide without sacrificing normal growth
  • pest resistance: kills over 90 percent of aphids and other leaf-eating and pod-eating pests

Similar requirements for GM corn include

  • herbicide resistance: in the early growth phase with four-five leaflets, the crop can survive four times the median effective dose of the targeted herbicide without sacrificing normal growth
  • pest resistance: within six days, kills over 90 percent of Ostrinia nubilalis, armyworm, Heliothis armigera and fall armyworm

The standards also require that GM varieties transformed from approved varieties should have similar traits; ‘DNA fingerprinting’ using SSRs (simple sequence repeats) should indicate less than two different markers.

The announcement marks another step towards GM corn and soybean commercialisation. Seed companies must obtain three types of approval from MARA before rolling out GM varieties, including a

  • biosecurity certificate
  • variety approval
  • production license