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GM Technology in China
   2015-02-03 20:31:30    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Wang Wei

Genetically modified (GM) technology has long been a controversial issue. A senior Chinese official said on Tuesday that more efforts will be put into genetically modified organism (GMO) study and supervision, as well as into educating the public about GMO knowledge amid continuing widespread public suspicion about the safety of such products.


Genetically modified foods (or GM foods) are foods produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. These techniques have allowed for the introduction of new traits as well as greater control over a food's genetic structure than previously afforded by methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding.

A scientist uses the methods of genetic engineering to change the DNA of papaya. [Photo: CFP]

Commercial sale of genetically modified crops began in 1994. Most genetic modification of foods has primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers such as soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. These have been engineered for resistance to pathogens, resistance to herbicides, and better nutrient profiles. GM livestock have also been experimentally developed, although as of November 2013 none are on the market.

A scientist uses the methods of genetic engineering to change the DNA of corn. [Photo: CFP]

Pros and Cons

Supporters believe it can increase yields on marginal lands, reduce chemical use and be engineered to contain nutrients like vitamin A and iron.

Opponents argue GM crops have uncertain long-term effects on human health and the environment. Although there is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater a risk to human health than does conventional food. 

Visitors taste the food exhibited at a GM Food Carnival in Beijing on December 1, 2013. [Photo: CFP]

Situation in China

Most Chinese seem to regard the GM technology with great suspicion.

Compared with the United States and many South American countries that have freely adopted GM technologies, China has maintained a cautious approach to large-scale production of GM crops. It currently only approves the production of GM cotton and papaya and prohibits commercial production of any GM staple foods.

A study revealed last Wednesday said China's GM crop planting areas declined in 2014 amid heated discussions over safety concerns.

However, the country is a major importer of GM farm produce, including soybean, rapeseed, cotton and corn. China imported over 71 million tons of soybean in 2014. The bulk of these imports were GMOs.

The photo shows genetically modified rice. [Photo: CFP]

China's Efforts

Han Jun, Deputy Director of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, said it was time for China to become a world leader in the research of GM biotechnology.

This comes after the recently released NO.1 Central document said the country will strengthen the technical study and safety management of GM technology, while also raising better public awareness of the issue.

"We hope to give the public, including the media, a clear, objective, and more comprehensive understanding on GM technology's origins and developments, its characteristics and safety risks, China's current safety management system on GM as well as other countries' safety management system on GM technology." Han explained.

An illustration shows an expert checks the safety of genetically modified food. [Photo: CFP]

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