The Chinese government is to give departments the green light to issue import certificates for GM foods, in a significant move towards allaying US concerns.

The Ministry of Agriculture will publish rules on the procedures to be followed later this month. Several biotechnology test centres will be given the go-ahead to issue the safety certificate before the new rules come into effect, sources at the ministry said.

Chinese imports of US soybeans dried up lat year after the Chinese government declared tougher new regulations governing imports of GM products. Although details of their implementation remained vague, traders were reluctant to carry on doing business. Washington has reacted with great concern to the move, as the US imports soybeans to the tune of US$1bn to China each year - the vast majority of which is genetically modified.

Trade officials from the USDA are currently in Beijing discussing the matter with Chinese officials, the Shanghai Daily reported.