Approach GM food carefully

Updated: 2013-07-02 08:48

(China Daily)

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The Ministry of Agriculture recently issued bio-safety certificates to three new overseas varieties of genetically modified (GM) soybeans, sparking a controversy. But the agricultural authorities' move is not as bad as it is made out to be, says an article in Beijing Youth Daily. Excerpts:

This is not the first time that China has allowed the import of GM soybeans - the first was in 1998. This time, the Ministry of Agriculture has just added three new varieties to the GM soybean import list to ensure a better mix of varieties to reduce risks.

According to official documents, imported GM soybeans in China are mainly used as raw materials to process oil, for example, rather than for direct consumption by humans. But since there is a possibility that unscrupulous traders may use GM soybeans to make bean products, the authorities have to strengthen supervision on imported GM soybeans to eliminate the risk.

The import of large amounts of GM soybeans has enabled China to use its limited arable land to grow other food products in order to ensure food security. In recent years, the news of heavy metal pollution in major rice-producing areas of South China has pushed up the demand for rice from Northeast China, which incidentally used to be the main soybean-producing area. Protecting the safety of domestic rice is part of the government's measures to ensure food security.

Moreover, China is importing GM soybeans, not GM soybean seeds. That means GM soybean crops will not be grown in China, which rules out the possibility of environmental damage.

But given the general global opposition to transgenic food technology on health and environmental grounds, China should adopt a careful approach to commercial production of GM crops. After all, food safety (and security) tops the agenda of a populous country like China.