China has not announced the regulatory status of plant gene editing or of gene edited food, but extensive gene editing research is being done. The government has spent close to $10 billion funding agricultural research projects over the past decade (versus less than $4 billion in the US) and has published more research papers on CRISPR than any other country. No gene edited crops or food have been commercialized.
China strictly limits the import and domestic production of GM crops, but many plant researchers around the world believe China will follow the United States by regulating most gene editing techniques as conventional plants.
China strictly regulates genetically modified crops subject to the regulations put forth by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2001, called Regulations on Administration of Agricultural Genetically Modified Organisms Safety. An organization comprised of several departments from different ministries is responsible for the review, regulation and inspection of novel crops. The State Council supervises agricultural safety. China regulates the process used to create genetically modified seeds rather than the characteristics of the final products, as is the case in the US and many other countries, and includes products derived from GMOs under GM legislation.
In 2017, state-owned ChemChina bought Switzerland-based Syngenta, one of the world’s four largest agribusinesses and a company deeply involved in gene-editing research, for $43 billion, the most China has ever spent acquiring a foreign company.
- High-yield rice: The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) developed rice using CRISPR that produces 25-31% more than traditional varieties.
- Fragrant rice: Researchers produced 10 varieties of rice that smell like jasmine.
- High fiber rice: CAS developed rice with high fiber content.
- High-yield maize: CAS developed maize that produces more than conventional varieties using TALENs and CRISPR.
- High-yield wheat: CAS developed wheat that produces more than conventional varieties.
- Fungus-resistant wheat: CAS developed wheat resistant to a common fungus.
- Herbicide-resistant corn: CAS developed wheat resistant to certain herbicides.
- Grape research: Northwest A&F University studied how to use CRISPR effectively in grape genomes.
- Kiwifruit research: CAS studied how to optimize CRISPR function for gene editing in kiwifruit.
- Poplar tree: Southwest University used CRISPR for the first time in a tree species to create albino poplar trees.
- High-yield soybean: CAS created a soybean variety that can grow in warmer climates and produce higher yields.
2016: Chinese government issues 5-year plan that includes strong support of agricultural gene editing research.
2001: Regulations on Administration of Agricultural Genetically Modified Organisms Safety published, which heavily regulates the import and domestic production of genetically modified crops.
- Genetic Literacy Project’s FAQ on gene editing
- USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Report: Peoples Republic of China Agricultural Biotechnology Annual, 2019
- Library of Congress summary of China gene regulations includes detailed analysis of the country’s evolving biosafety laws and liabilities