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China seed industry seeks better laws to support innovation

BEIJING, March 10 (Reuters) - China’s seed regulations need to be overhauled to boost innovation and protect investment in new products, executives said this week, amid a renewed focus on the sector for its critical role in ensuring food security.

China’s leadership has said in recent months the country needs a “turnaround” in its seed industry, which is plagued by counterfeit products and a huge number of similar varieties that offer little new improvements for farmers.

The country’s seed law and regulations on the protection of new plant varieties should be revised as soon as possible, while enforcement against infringements should be stepped up, said Ning Gaoning, chairman of state-owned Sinochem Group and China National Chemical Corp (Chemchina), according to a report by official news agency Xinhua late on Tuesday.

Sinochem owns multinational seed giant Syngenta.

Ning is a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body to China’s rubber-stamp parliament which is meeting this week.

Delegates attending the CPPCC and parliament meetings submit proposals for new legislation during this time, although they do not all become law.

China has more than 7,200 licensed seed companies but few have the capability for innovation, Xinhua also quoted Li Denghai, a parliamentary delegate, as saying.

Li is also honorary chairman of Shandong Denghai Seeds CO Ltd, a major player in the corn market.

Some seed companies slightly change the traits of seed products and then promote them as new varieties, he said, which has caused a flood of similar products on the market.

“As soon as a new product is promoted, there will be imitations right away,” added Li.

Speaking on the sidelines of the parliament last week, Tang Renjian, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said the ministry is studying a plan to help its animal and plant breeding sector close the gap with foreign countries.

However, achieving the turnaround would take a decade, he said.

Reporting by Dominique Patton; editing by Richard Pullin

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