Opinion / Xin Zhiming

GM crop management must be strengthened

By Xin Zhiming ( Updated: 2014-07-29 09:56

It is illegal to sell or grow genetically modified (GM) rice in China, but such rice is on sale in Hubei province, according to China Central Television (CCTV).

Reporters bought five random packets of rice at a large supermarket in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, and sent them to the Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine for testing. Three of them were found to contain GM rice - which is apparently modified to protect the crops from pests.

China bans growing or selling such rice. It does import some types of genetically engineered soy beans, but soy beans are not a staple food for Chinese people – unlike rice.

The CCTV report confirms suspicions of some anti-GM food activists and organizations that - despite the government’s ban - GM strains of rice have reached the market in some places, especially central China.

GM food remains controversial in China. Although pro-GM food activists claim that it is absolutely safe, many people doubt the necessity of using such technology in the production of rice and wheat — both staple food for Chinese, as they say that the safety of the genetically engineered food has not been verified.

China only allows experimental growing of such crops, but the CCTV report shows the law has not been respected.

The seriousness of the Hubei incident concerns the fact that GM rice is on sale – before persuasive testing and conclusions regarding its safety – and this could potentially affect people’s health and impact the rule of law.

The authorities need to quickly step in and launch an investigation. The agricultural authorities, in particular, must respond promptly to the public’s request for transparency. Top officials from the ministry have in the past said they would severely punish those who illegally grow or sell GM crops. Now it is time for them to keep their promises and show the public that they are serious in fighting such illegal activities.

China always welcomes new technologies but, when it comes to food, safety must be ensured first.

Most Viewed Today's Top News