Expectations that China will become more open to GM crops in the aftermath of ChemChina’s purchase of Syngenta are receiving little official government support.

Although China President Xi Jinping has called for “industrial, production and business operation systems for modern agriculture,” he has historically fudged his position on GM — urging advocates to be “bold in research, careful in promotion.”

The issue of approving GM crops for planting received little mention during President Xi’s lengthy address to the October national congress of China’s Communist Party, despite his calls for more modern agriculture to ensure China’s food security.

Only a few edible crops are approved for planting due to entrenched domestic fears that the technology poses a security threat.

Chinese researchers are vying to promote new varieties they have developed, while not revealing whether they are genetically modified. Many are grown in demonstration fields but are not commercialized.

A loose coalition of leftists, environmentalists and retired officials wrote letters to the top leadership last year opposing the ChemChina – Syngenta deal.

Leftists and nationalists fear that foreign GM technology poses a security threat to China, but are more open to approvals of domestically developed GM varieties.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, oppose all GM adoption in China due to concerns about the damage caused by the herbicides and pesticides used with the crops.