Chinese government officials announced they have approved permanent safety certificates for several grains and two cotton products derived from plants improved through biotechnology.

Those certificates include approval for Roundup Ready soybeans, two corn products and the cotton products. The latter are believed to be for Roundup Ready and Liberty Link corn and Roundup Ready and Bollgard cotton.

“The United States welcomes the announcement today that China's Ministry of Agriculture has completed its biotechnology regulatory review of Roundup Ready soybeans and two corn and two cotton products,” Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a joint statement.

“These biotech crop approvals are a significant development that should assure continued U.S. access to this important market.”

A series of temporary approvals of safety certificates had been creating uncertainty for U.S. firms which shipped nearly $2.9 billion of soybeans to China in 2003. U.S. cotton sales to China have also risen significantly, amounting to almost $740 million in 2003 compared to $141 million the previous year.

“China's decision to approve permanent safety certificates for several biotechnology crops is another positive step for trade between our two countries and demonstrates the Chinese government's commitment to the WTO principle of using sound science to determine such issues,” said the statement.

“We will continue to engage China on outstanding biotechnology issues to ensure that both American and Chinese farmers have access to this technology to increase agricultural productivity and to provide safe and wholesome products to consumers.”

The decision comes after extensive testing by Chinese scientists who confirmed the safety of these crops, which has long been realized in the United States, according to the statement.

“The successful outcome of this issue resulted from close cooperation between the United States and China,” it said.

Previously, China required traders to obtain temporary safety certificates, usually good for only a few months, if they wished to import biotech grains. China is expected to finalize the safety approvals for other biotechnology products in the near future.