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UPDATED: February 26, 2010 NO. 9 MARCH 4, 2010
New Opportunities for Food
Experts believe that genetically modified technology provides an opportunity for the sustainable development of China's agriculture

The country is seeding GM technology with a sizeable investment of more than 20 billion yuan ($2.93 billion) from the Central Government and additional matched funding from its provincial counterparts.

By 2020, the country could be a leader in GM foods, cloning, large-scale GM technology and promotion of new strains, Huang said.

Tang Renjian, Deputy Director of the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, said innovation in technology would help alleviate the supply shortage. Cautious management and assessment will be carried out on which strains to promote and industrialize.

Food safety

As for people's concerns about the safety of GM food, Wu Yongning, a food safety specialist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said current studies "have not proved GM food harmful to human health."

Wu said GM food had to pass scrupulous testing in order to be available for sale; including laboratory and field studies, toxicity and allergy tests.

Besides, health administrations are to establish a system to monitor and report adverse effects, said Wu.

"I am not ruling out all possible risks, but the risks of GM food are no greater than that of traditional ones, given the heavy use of pesticide in growing traditional food," he said.

The State Council introduced a regulation in 2001 to ensure the safety of GM food, with strict provisions on research, testing, production and marketing.

Huazhong Agricultural University says nutrition, toxic and allergy analysis shows the two GM varieties are as safe as natural ones.

"The anti-pest Bacillus thuringiensis only accumulates on the rice's stalks and leaves and hardly reaches the grains, which puts its safety above suspicion," said Zhu Yingguo, a noted hybrid rice scientist at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

The MOA said, the two authorized strains of GM rice have undergone a strict five stages already—research, pilot experiments, environmental release, experimental production and safety certification.

Huang of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences said the GM rice was less vulnerable to insects and diseases and, as a result, less pesticide was needed, which was safer for human beings and the environment.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application says about 224,000 tons of pesticide less were applied around the world during the decade between 1996 and 2006, because of the expansion of GM planting.

Besides, the reduced workload to pesticide the crops would help ease the labor shortfall in China's countryside resulting from the large population of migrant workers going to the cities, said Huang.

Zhang Qifa, Director of the National Center of Plant Gene Research at Huazhong Agricultural University, said he and his colleagues would make efforts to improve public awareness about GM technology and eliminate their doubts concerning it.

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