While China has approved some U.S. biotech corn hybrids the process is slow and may be impeding the growth of the U.S. corn export market. Zhang Shihauang is one of the top corn breeders in China and he says they would like to narrow the gap between U.S. and Chinese corn production potential, but the rate of biotechnology acceptance has been slow.
"The American farmer has adopted a lot of modern technology, very good hybrids and transgenic technolgy," Shihauang said. "We Chinese scientists and Chinese farmers should learn from American farmers to adopt new and modern technologies to improve all of his production."
Shihauang says the Chinese government and consumers need to move past their fears about GMOs because they can't grow enough food in the country to sustain future demand. Until China can catch up to the U.S. in production, Shihauang says they may have to import some corn, but he says the bias is still towards being self-sustainable.
As a corn breeder Shihauang has been impressed with the quality and yield potential of the U.S. corn crop during the Chinese trade delegations tour in the U.S. this week. One of the stops was the farm of National Corn Growers Association Chairman Darrin Ihnen near Hurley, South Dakota. Ihnen took the group into his fields to show them the corn crop first-hand.
Ihnen says China does have a growing economy, which leaves plenty of upside potential for demand. The big question is whether or not the government will allow U.S. corn to be a bigger part of their market since they want to grow their own domestic production.
"That's a great goal to be sustainable food wise in your own country and we here in the United States are very fortunate that we can do that," Ihnen said. "I know they want to be sustainable from the corn side, but if we have corn to market them that just allows us to have our foot in the door. As long as we've got something available, they may not buy today but if they're there tomorrow that's great because we know we're going to producer more and more corn every year."
Ihnen says the U.S. government also needs to work with Chinese officials on their regulatory issues. Their biotech approval rate is very slow and they also have other strict phytosanitary requirements U.S. corn must meet for export.