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Cautious China Approves GMO Alfalfa Import After Decade-long Wait

Jan 13 (Reuters) - China approved imports of eight genetically modified (GM) crops, permitting shipments of GM alfalfa for the first time after a decade-long wait, the country's agriculture ministry said on Friday.

Global seed makers and the U.S. government welcomed the decision after Beijing's slow approval process disrupted grain exports and launches of crops that need clearance from China because it is one of the world's biggest agriculture markets.

The approvals are "a positive step towards resolving the longstanding challenges biotechnology developers face in obtaining import approvals in China," said the Biotechnology Innovation Organization in Washington, the world's largest trade association for biotech companies like Bayer AG.

Beijing has a cautious approach to GM technology and has not approved any major food crops for cultivation, despite President Xi Jinping's backing of the technology. China allows the import of GM crops used in animal feed, but trade partners say the process is not always based on science and is often driven by politics.