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 Ministry of Agriculture decided not to approve a new product, it would be because of not enough data,” said an executive with an industry association. The sources declined to identify the soybean variety involved. China accounts for about 60% 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 one million tonnes of US 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 negative media reports.