China: Nation’s main grain-producing province bans GM crop

Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province will ban the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops starting from May 2017, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a provincial regulation passed on Friday. 

Liang Fei, Global Times. December 18 2016

Cultivation of GM crops, including corn, rice and soybeans, is banned. The production and sale of GM seeds is also prohibited, according to Xinhua.

Grain production in Heilongjiang ranks No.1 in China, accounting for 10 percent of the nation’s total grain harvest, according to media reports.

The province also banned the sale of imported edible GM farm produce or that containing GM ingredients. It said all GM food must be sold in a special zone, clearly indicated in stores, the report said.

The regulation followed a survey in October in which 91.5 percent of the respondents in the province objected to GM crops, Xinhua reported.

Illegal cultivation of GM crops has occasionally been discovered in the nation. Media reported in August that 2,000 mu (133.33 hectares) of GM corn were destroyed in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In September, another 4,000 mu of GM corn were uprooted in Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.

However, Zhang Xianfa, an official at the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), told media in November that there were only a few cases of illegal cultivation of GM crops, news portal reported on November 10.

“There is nothing wrong with researching GM technology. But before the technology is proved safe, we should be cautious in promoting it in crop production,” Ma Wenfeng, a senior analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultants, told the Global Times Sunday.

Ma further noted that as soybean and corn farmers in Heilongjiang are under great pressure with cheap GM farm produce from the Americas flooding into the nation, so it is better for them to keep growing non-GM crops. This could grow into a “competitive advantage” for them, as some people now tend to believe that non-GM food is healthier, according to Ma.

Though regulations covering the cultivation of GM crops are tightening, China is still open to research in the sector. On November 4, the MOA announced the first list of locations that are allowed to conduct experiments with GM crops. The list included the city of Sanya, as well as Lingshui and Ledong counties in South China’s Hainan Province.

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