More scrutiny of GM products pledged

2024-04-11 09:20:23China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

China has warned that scrutiny of genetically modified food production will be increased in the coming months, pledging zero tolerance toward illegal trials that can potentially introduce human-engineered genes into the wild and disrupt ecological balances.

In a circular issued on Wednesday, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs pledged "severe consequences" for unapproved production trials and other "environmental release" activities in which genetically modified organisms need to be introduced outside lab settings, which can lead to the evolution of more robust pests or weeds.

The ministry, which has repeatedly reassured the public that approved GM foods are safe, said the growing and processing of GM crops that have yet to pass safety vetting, or selling their seeds, are among breaches that will be harshly clamped down upon.

Randomly changing the approved purpose of imported GM food products, and failing to label them as required, will also be subject to severe punishments, it said.

In recent years, China has sought to expand the use of GM technologies as part of a national drive to strengthen food security.

In December, China approved 51 GM corn and soybean varieties for commercial production after a three-year trial planting in selected regions. The approval was the first given by the Chinese government to staple food crops, expanding the use of GM technologies long restricted to cotton and papaya.

Later that month, authorities handed out permits to 26 domestic seed makers to produce and distribute corn and soybean seeds at designated sites, such as some county-level jurisdictions in Gansu province and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

"Safety is the foundation and prerequisite for the industrialization of genetically modified varieties," an unnamed ministry official said in a media release last year. The official said that before GM products are marketed, they must undergo scientific, comprehensive and rigorous assessments of food and environmental safety.

"Our safety assessment follows international practices and is carried out in accordance with national laws, regulations and standards," the official said. "It is conducted in different stages, and if any potential health or environmental safety issues are identified at any stage, research and development trials are immediately terminated, and the products will not enter the industrialization phase."

The crackdown on misconduct related to GM food is part of the ministry's "green sword" law enforcement campaign this year that aims to safeguard smooth food production.

The ministry said the campaign will be carried out multiple times around planting seasons throughout the year, when demand for seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural materials is high.

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