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Public concern over safety of genetically modified rice

2013-12-20 13:16 CNTV Web Editor: Li Yan

The recent event involving genetically modified rice in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province has sparked another round of nationwide debate about the safety of GM crops.

Earlier this month, a website conducted a sampling survey covering different brands of rice sold in supermarkets in Hubei province. One sample was found to contain genetically modified organisms.

A quiet laboratory with researchers doing experiments with the controversial genetically modified rice. This is the National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement at Huazhong Agricultural University,in central China's Hubei province.

Their recent product, the "golden rice",modified to produce more beta-carotene, a form of Vitamin A, has raised wide concern over the safty of such products.

Professor Lin Yongjun, the project leader of insect-resistant transgenic rice varieties of the lab has been leading his team to make GM rice for over 10 years.

"Two of our GM rice varieties have already been granted safety certificates by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2009. The certificates were granted only after rigorous testing and inspection, including a 90-day experiment during which the rice was fed to rats, and tests were carried out on three successive generations of rice to ensure product safety," said Lin Yongjun, professor of Huazhong Agricultural university.

This is the mystery golden rice. This October, the first China Golden Rice Tasting Event was held at Huazhong Agricultural University, sparking another round of nationwide debate over the safety of GM crops.

"Public doubt concerning the safety of GM foods was highlighted recently when Internet users overwhelmingly sided with many well-known people. They are not scientists. It's not right for them to judge something they don't know. So we want to quell public fears about the safety of the GM products," said Lin.

Soybeans are a daily necessity for most Chinese. They are used to make tofu, cooking oil and animal feed. In China, up to 80 percent of soybeans are now imported from the countries including the United States, Brazil and Argentina. And most of these are genetically modified.

In China, all the products containing genetically modified soybean are forced to be labeled. But no specific protocols have been rolledout for the commercialization of GM rice in China. In early December, rice sold at a supermarket in Hubei province was detected positive for genetically modified organisms.

"I'm completely against it. We're not experiments. Some GM foods have already been imported or commercialized without further research. I'm against it," said local resident.

"I also highly doubt its safety now, but I believe GM foods have many advantages. If the government and academics can prove them completely safe, I will definitely try them," said a local resident.

Rice is a staple food for most Chinese people. Currently, the safety certificates issued to Professor Lin's research team are the only one in China. He said there is an urgent need to commercialize GM rice to correct the imbalance between China's grain output and demand.

GM foods have been a hotly discussed topic on China's internet in recent years. So far the public has gotten conflicitng information by various professional researchers. In the end, concerned citizens are still waiting for further research to definitively prove the safty of GM products.

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