Heilongjiang not ideal place to grow GM crop, unusual climate: officials
An agriculture official in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province on Wednesday denied a previous report that farmers had illegally planted genetically modified (GM) soybeans in the province, amid Chinese concerns over GM products.
"Our investigation has not found any farmer planting GM soybeans in Heilongjiang," an official with Heilongjiang Agriculture Committee told the Global Times Wednesday.
Farmers in Suihua had been growing genetically modified soybeans during the past two years, the China Business Journal reported in early September.
An anonymous buyer was quoted by the China Business Journal as saying that the farmer he reached had a warehouse full of GM soybeans. Many of the farmers knew the beans they plant are of a different variety with a higher yield, but none of them were aware that GM soybeans are illegal.
Provincial agricultural authorities said they have yet to find GM soybeans planted in Suihua. A total of 152 samples from 51 companies that purchase soybeans from farmers were tested, covering over 40 species, according to the China Youth Daily.
Heilongjiang is not an ideal place to grow GM soybeans because of its climate and temperature, said the committee.
Some farmers previously reached by the Global Times said that they had bought GM seeds via online platforms such as taobao.com. Wang Jing, a member of the Greenpeace working group on GM products, told the Global Times said they do find some farmers growing GM soybeans in China.
China's Ministry of Agriculture issued a work plan to tighten surveillance of transgenic agriculture products. The Heilongjiang Agriculture Committee also dispatched a work group to verify the China Business Journal report.
China has only approved commercial production of GM cotton and papaya, not soybeans and food crops.
Farmers find it easier and cheaper to grow GM soybeans, and the crops produce more oil, Lu Baorong, a professor of life sciences at Shanghai-based Fudan University, told the Global Times.
The oil extraction rate of imported GM soybeans is 19 to 22 percent while the rate for domestic non-transgenetic soybeans is 16 to 17 percent, news site ifeng.com reported in September.
Though GM soybeans yield more oil, non-GM varieties contain more protein and is a better source of soy products, Wang said, adding that planting GM soybeans is a matter of food safety and food sovereignty. "Planting GM soybeans will threaten the diversity of local natural soybeans," she said.
The effect of growing GM soybeans on the surrounding ecosystem remains unknown, said Lu, adding that China is the world's only source of wild soybeans.