GM research to be strengthened

Updated: 2015-02-04 07:52

By Xu Wei(China Daily)

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Foreign products 'can't be allowed to dominate in China'

China's genetically modified food market cannot be dominated by foreign products, a senior rural affairs official said on Tuesday amid calls by authorities for intensified efforts to ease public fears over GM products.

The country will continue to support GM food research as a nation with a huge population to feed, the official said, also hinting that it will support the commercialization of domestic GM products.

 GM research to be strengthened

Colored cocoons have been produced by genetically modified silkworms in a lab at Southwest University in Chongqing. Liu Chan / Xinhua

Han Jun, deputy director of the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, made the comments at a news conference. The group is China's top rural affairs decision-making agency.

"There is one point we are clear on. We cannot allow China's GM food market to be dominated by foreign products," said Han, who served as a top rural affairs expert with the State Council's Development and Research Center before taking his current position.

China has still to approve the marketing of GM grains. To date, agricultural authorities have only approved the marketing of domestic GM papaya and cotton, according to Han.

Meanwhile, imported GM soybeans, corn, cotton and rapeseed have taken up a major portion of the country's agricultural market. China imported 71 million metric tons of soybeans last year, a majority of which were GM soybeans, Han said.

In late December, Swiss agribusiness company Syngenta said it had received a safety certificate for the MIR 162 strain of corn from China's regulatory authorities, a move that formally grants import approval.

The announcement came after at least 1.25 million tons of GM corn imported from the United States was rejected by Chinese quarantine authorities in 2013 and 2014 after traces of the MIR 162 biotech variety were found.

Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, said at the conference that it is important to change public misconceptions about GM products and allow rational voices to be heard.

GM research to be strengthened

Some GM food is not being marketed because of disapproval from the public, he said.

According to the first policy document issued by the Communist Party of China Central Committee this year, which usually signifies the country's top priority, China will strengthen research and safety management of GM food and the popularity of GM food science.

The policy document has focused on rural issues for the 12th consecutive year.

Debate over the safety of GM food has been one of the most heated topics in Chinese media and among the public in recent years.

An online poll of nearly 50,000 Internet users conducted by news portal in 2010 found that 84 percent of respondents said they would not choose GM food for safety reasons.

Chen said, "We need to at least create a fair and democratic atmosphere for discussions, rather than cursing those who develop GM products as traitors of the country."

Irrational opinions have been so strong that they have intimidated scientists with real expertise on the field from speaking out, Chen added.

GM crops are being adopted in many developing countries. According to a report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, India, with 11.6 million hectares of GM crops, ranked fourth in the world in 2014.China, was ranked sixth with 3.9 million hectares.

(China Daily 02/04/2015 page1)