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Care taken with GM crops, national food supply

Wang Xiaodong
Updated: Mar 8,2018 8:47 AM     China Daily

No genetically modified grain has been approved for commercial production in China, the Ministry of Agriculture said on March 7.

“We would first develop nonfood GM agricultural products, such as cotton, followed by products used as feed, then food for humans, with grains coming last,” ministry spokesman Pan Xianzheng said at a news conference on the sidelines of the ongoing two sessions.

Currently only GM cotton and papaya are allowed to be grown at commercial scale in China, he said.

To ensure food safety, the country’s agricultural authorities have been sticking strictly to laws and regulations in evaluating and managing genetically modified products, he said.

Developing GM crops can help solve major constraints on China’s agricultural development by promoting species that are resistant to insects, consume less water, have high yields or result in final products of higher quality, Pan said.

“The cultivation of GM products should follow the law and regulations, but it will be up to consumers to decide whether they will eat GM food or not,” Han Changfu, minister of agriculture, said at the news conference.

China will intensify research and development of new GM products over the next few years, including promoting commercialization of major products, such as bacteria-resistant cotton and corn, to help secure China’s food supply, according to a plan released by the central government in 2016.

A biosafety evaluation system should be established by 2020 to ensure the safety of GM products, according to the plan.

Although no GM grain has been grown in China commercially, experiments have been conducted in planting.

In January, Huahui 1, an insect-resistant GM rice variety created in Wuhan, Hubei province, passed safety and nutrition inspections by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

The rice, created by Huazhong Agricultural University in 1998, received biosafety certification by China’s Ministry of Agriculture in 2009 after safety evaluations that lasted nearly 10 years, the university said.

Liu Xiaoqing, a researcher in genetic engineering at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said strict and lengthy safety evaluations are required before a genetically modified food can enter the market.

“Generally more than 10 years of research and evaluation are required before a GM product can be sold on the market,” he said. “The standards are much stricter than for non-GM products.”

Pan, of the Ministry of Agriculture, said authorities in China have undertaken a series of measures to regulate the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry and poultry raising to ensure food safety, including banning the use of eight drugs for animals raised for meat.

Of the commonly consumed meat in China, such as pork, 99.7 percent meets requirements for residual antibiotics, according to surveys by the Ministry of Agriculture last year, Pan said at the news conference.

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