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China keeps doorway open to U.S. biotech beans, but exports are down

(Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- China announced last week that it would extend until September 2003 the interim regulation that has allowed for easier importation of genetically engineered soybeans from the United States. It had planned to implement stricter regulations after Dec. 20.

This heartened U.S. government and soybean industry officials, for they believe this will maintain the $1 billion export market, at least while China hammers out final regulations on biotech food products.

What's notable is that U.S. soybean exports through September are down more than 20 percent compared with the same period in 2001, largely because of the testing protocols that are part of China's biotech regulations.

Meanwhile, China remains Brazil's largest customer for soybeans. The South American agriculture powerhouse harvested a record crop this year.

"...for the first time, average producivity achieved by the Brazilian soy fields was 2,720 kg per hectare, which are to exceed the 2,520 kg per hactare estimated for the USA soy," according to this year's Brazilian Soybean Yearbook.

Many nations turn to Brazil for soybeans that are free of genetically modified organisms. Unlike the United States, where 70 percent of the soybeans are transgenic, Brazil has maintained a moratorium on the planting of biotech crops for three years.

Sources: Reuters, New York Times, Feedstuffs