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Illegal GM food raises concerns

By Wang Qian in Beijing and Liu Xiaoli in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2014-04-02 07:41

Hainan province's delayed announcement that it discovered the illegal planting of genetically modified corn and cotton has triggered public concerns about how information relating to GM food in China is disclosed.

A statement released by the Hainan provincial agriculture department on Monday said that nine corn and cotton samples out of 107 specimens were identified as genetically engineered and that they were destroyed immediately in late December. Another six suspected samples were being examined at the time. The samples were taken from various trial farms operated by agricultural companies and institutes.

Many critics have asked what took the Hainan agency so long to publicize its detection of the illegal GM plants.

The department said that the destroyed samples and the samples under investigation came from illegal trial farms. It stressed that any trials on GM crops that have not secured government permission are banned, and those who conduct such trials will be punished in accordance with the law.

The department declined further comment.

Huang Dafang, a former member of the country's biosafety committee in charge of agricultural GM organisms - plants or animals created through genetic engineering - said China has strict regulations on GM food registration and production.

He said it's rare for scientists to ignore the government's certification procedure and that the public shouldn't panic. He added that agricultural authorities are on the lookout for illegal plantings of GM food every year.

But Shi Baozhong, a lawyer from Anhui province, disagreed.

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