China has not approved commercial production of any Genetically Modified (GM) staple food, as per Chinese Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu.
“We have been cautious over GM food because we want to make sure that it is safe”, he said at a press conference yesterday on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature.
“The government has never allowed any other GM agricultural products to be planted except cotton and papaya”, Han said.
China granted bio—safety certificates in 2009 to two pest—resistant GM rice varieties and one type of corn, the first country to allow field trials of GM staple foods.
Stating that the country’s GM safety regime remains strict, Han threatened severe punishment for any unauthorised GM crop sales, planting and field trials.
GM food remains controversial nearly two decades after being introduced in the commercial market and there is still no consensus on whether they are harmful to humans. A total of 28 countries have planted GM crops.
As much as 81 per cent of soya beans, 35 per cent of corn and 30 per cent of oilseed rape in the world are GM products, state—run Xinhua reported, citing the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri—biotech Applications, a non—profit organisation devoted to promoting crop biotechnologies.
The debate on the safety of GM food was revived in China last year when celebrities joined netizens and experts to appeal for the consumers’ right to know when they’re buying GM products.
In China, 90 per cent of soya bean oil, which accounts for more than half of cooking oil consumption, is made from GM soybeans. Han said he himself consumes food containing GM ingredients.
“Whether GM food is safe or not should not be decided by departments or individuals, it should be decided by scientists following strict standards and procedures”, he said.
China has set up committees of experts to supervise GM crop safety management.
He also added that mandatory food labelling for 17 varieties of GM products is required by law or regulation.