This paper evaluated the MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) gross primary production (GPP) product (MOD17) by using estimated GPP from eddy-covariance flux measurements over an irrigated winter wheat and maize double-cropping field on the North China Plain in 2003–2004, and an alpine meadow on the Tibetan Plateau in 2002–2003. The mean annual GPP from MOD17 accounted for 1/2–2/3 of the surface estimated mean annual GPP for the alpine meadow, but only about 1/5–1/3 for the cropland. This underestimation was partly attributed to low estimates of leaf area index by a MODIS product (MOD15) because it is used to calculate absorbed photosynthetically active radiation in the MOD17 algorithm. The main reason is that the parameter maximum light use efficiency (εmax) in the MOD17 algorithm was underestimated for the two biomes, especially for the cropland. Contrasted to the default, εmax was optimized using surface measurements. The optimized εmax for winter wheat, maize and meadow was 1.18, 1.81 and 0.73 g C/MJ, respectively. By using the surface measurements and optimized εmax , the MOD17 algorithm significantly improved the accuracy of GPP estimates. The optimum MOD17 algorithm explained about 82%, 68%, and 79% of GPP variance for winter wheat, maize, and meadow, respectively. These results suggest that it is necessary to adjust the MOD17 parameters for the estimation of cropland and meadow GPP, particularly over cropland.