Agri­cul­ture min­is­ter reaf­firms safety of GM foods

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAO HUANXIN zhao­huanxin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

In a rare dis­play of con­fi­dence in the coun­try’s man­age­ment of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied food, China’s top agri­cul­ture of­fi­cial said he eats GM food.

“I now also eat food pro­cessed from GM raw ma­te­ri­als, specif­i­cally soy­bean oil, be­cause it’s mainly made from im­ported soy­beans, most of which are ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied,” Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture Han Changfu said while an­swer­ing a China Daily ques­tion on the side­lines of the an­nual leg­isla­tive ses­sion on Thurs­day.

The video clip and news re­port of the min­is­ter’s re­mark went vi­ral on the In­ter­net on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, a sig­nal that the safety of GM food is a big pub­lic con­cern.

Soy­bean im­ports, Han said, have un­der­gone a chain of strin­gent pro­ce­dures and had passed safety tests in both ex­port­ing coun­tries and in China.

Han’s min­istry pre­vi­ously said im­port cer­tifi­cates for GM crops in China had been awarded only for soy­beans, corn, rape­seed, cot­ton and beets. These im­ports are only al­lowed to be used as raw ma­te­ri­als for do­mes­tic pro­cess­ing.

The min­is­ter re­it­er­ated China’s po­si­tion on trans­genic tech­nol­ogy that the coun­try must strive to keep up with the world’s ad­vanced level and that it must pos­sess its own in­tel­lec­tual property rights.

China has al­ready raked in prof­its from its GM re­search. GM cot­ton, for in­stance, has not only in­creased yield and in­come for farm­ers, but also dras­ti­cally cut the use of pes­ti­cides, said the min­is­ter.

Trans­genic cot­ton ac­counts for 95 per­cent of the Chi­nese mar­ket, he added.

“We’ve ac­tu­ally ex­er­cised ex­treme cau­tion on GM plants,” the min­is­ter said.

The coun­try has worked out statutes and pro­ce­dures cov­er­ing GM re­search, test­ing, pro­duc­tion, pro­cess­ing, trade, im­port per­mits and com­pul­sory iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, he said.

Its trans­genic re­search and ap­pli­ca­tion be­gan with non­food plants, such as cot­ton, then on plants whose prod­ucts are used for pro­cess­ing and for an­i­mal feed, and fi­nally on crops whose prod­ucts are di­rectly for food, he said.

The coun­try has not ap­proved GM rice plant­ing on a commercial ba­sis, and any­one who breaches the reg­u­la­tions on plant­ing or trad­ing GM crops or prod­ucts will be se­verely dealt with, Han said.

The min­is­ter also said China’s grain im­ports will un­likely surge, though it will turn to the global mar­ket for an “ap­pro­pri­ate” amount of im­ports.

Grain im­ports have in­creased over the past years, but not sig­nif­i­cantly, Han said.

Last year, China im­ported 13 mil­lion tons of grain, but the amount ac­counted for only 2.4 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal grain con­sump­tion, Han said, adding that even if the coun­try wanted to im­port more, there wasn’t enough avail­able in the world mar­ket.

He said that China will rely on do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion for food se­cu­rity, and its grain pro­duc­tion will be re­in­forced by sup­port­ive poli­cies, im­proved tech­nol­ogy and in­fra­struc­ture, par­tic­u­larly in ir­ri­ga­tion and agri­cul­tural mech­a­niza­tion.

WANG JING / CHINA DAILY

Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture Han Changfu leaves the room af­ter a news con­fer­ence on the side­lines of the on­go­ing two ses­sions on Thurs­day in Bei­jing. Han said he eats GM soy­bean oil.

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