Oversight of GM crop samples to be boosted

Updated: 2014-05-06 07:11

(China Daily)

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Genetically modified food research groups in China will strengthen supervision of GM samples following an alleged case of theft at a research base in Hainan province on April 11.

A notice from the Ministry of Agriculture last month said stealing the country's GM technology and seed samples could cause irreparable damage to the nation. Research organizations must pay close attention to this threat, it added.

Besides stressing further regulation of GM experiments, the notice requires GM research bases to enhance management and supervision of people and vehicles accessing their premises.

Huang Dafang, a former member of the nation's biosafety committee in charge of agricultural GM organisms, confirmed the notice's appearance to China Daily.

It was issued after two campaigners from international non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace were caught allegedly collecting three packets of seeds and leaves at a research base at Huazhong Agricultural University in Hainan province last month.

Huang said the notice criticized Greenpeace for alleged theft.

A statement from the university said the impact of such behavior was still being assessed and it reserved the right to take any legal action. Any theft of GM samples could trigger the illegal expansion of GM materials and even disclose these to foreign countries, the statement said.

Greenpeace denied the accusation.

Wang Jing, a senior Greenpeace food and agricultural campaigner who was involved in the "field investigation" on April 11, said the samples were collected outside the experimental field to see if surrounding fields were affected.

She said Greenpeace decided to investigate the safety management of GM food in Hainan following media reports that GM corn and cotton crops were suspected to have been planted illegally in the province.

Wang said that only through the "undercover field investigation" could they be objective and obtain samples firsthand.

"During our investigation, we found that the research base had problems with its distance from surrounding farmland, falling short of the national standard of 100 meters," Wang said.

According to a ministry regulation on safety assessment and management of GM organisms, the isolation distance for GM wheat should be more than 100 meters.

But the university said the GM experimental fields meet national standards and there is even a 2.7-meter-high wall built to protect nearby farmland.


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