China's process to approve Syngenta's MIR162 genetically modified corn is underway after the firm submitted additional material to authorities in November and should go through quickly, Vice Agriculture Minister Niu Dun said.
China has officially rejected 887,000 tonnes of U.S. corn since November last year, after detecting the unapproved MIR162 in incoming shipments.
The raft of rejections has already prompted U.S. seed dealers to offer farmers who ordered corn seed containing MIR162 an exchange for another variety.
"The approval process would go through very quickly," the vice minister told Reuters on the sidelines of the opening of China's parliament on Wednesday.
Asked if the corn variety could be approved within the first half of 2014, he said: "It is possible." He said the exact timing would depend on the agriculture ministry's biosafety committee.
Syngenta has been waiting for Chinese approval of its MIR162 corn since submitting an application in March 2010. The American chamber of commerce, which counts seed firms including Syngenta as members, last week complained that China's biotech approval process had become "slower, unpredictable and non transparent".
China's biosafety committee is scheduled to hold its annual meeting at the end of this month. If no decision is taken on Syngenta's pending application, the next opportunity for a review will be in June.
China is facing a domestic corn glut, with a new outbreak of bird flu and tumbling pork prices weighing on demand and prompting industry sources to suggest Beijing is in no hurry to clear the way for additional imports.