The People’s Republic of China Ministry of Agriculture has reportedly failed to renew the biosafety permits for two research programs growing genetically modified (GM) corn and rice, raising concerns about the future of GMO production in China. According to media sources, the Agriculture Ministry has not yet authorized any GMOs for public consumption and decided to discontinue further research after a state TV report allegedly identified illegal GM rice varieties in markets located near Huazhong Agricultural University, which was developing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) rice.

Although Greenpeace representatives and other stakeholders apparently cited public opinion as the motivation behind the announcement, Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy Director Huang Jikun suggested that the self-sufficiency of the domestic rice market has made the commercialization of Bt rice unnecessary. In addition, critics of the ministry’s decision have questioned whether the debate over GMO safety has taken a political bent. As University of Nottingham’s Cong Cao opined in an August 18 article appearing in The Conversation, “Anti-Western sentiment has been judged more convincing than a raft of studies endorsing the merits of agro-biotechnology. Government support for GM food is dwindling fast, and it seems safe to say that the opportunity to commercialize GM rice—and with it the chance to help address some of China’s most urgent problems—is all but gone.” See Science Insider and RT, August 20, 2014.