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China`s GM rice illegal production
Following Greenpeace's allegationof its discovery of genetically modified (GM) rice on the Chinese market, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) said it would "judge and deal with" the matter in a domestic investigation.

Greenpeace said at a news briefing Wednesday that it found GM rice, the commercial production of which has not gotten governmental approval and thus remains illegal, in a market of central China's Hubei Province.

A test by German-based Genescan, a leading gene test laboratory, showed that 19 of 25 samples from the market contain GM DNA, Greenpeace campaigner Liu Haiying said. The samples include rice seed and milled and unmilled rice.

The international environmental NGO launched four investigations in the province between February and April.

According to figures provided by local seed sellers and farmers, Greenpeace estimated that 950 to 1,200 tons of GM rice flowed intothe market last year, and that up to 12,500 tons may enter this year unless action is taken to stop it.

An anonymous MOA official reached by Xinhua by telephone said that the ministry cannot make a conclusion on the matter with reference of Greenpeace's investigation report.

The official said the ministry will "judge and deal with" the matter based on the investigation and test result by the provincial agricultural department of Hubei.

"Greenpeace has not yet made a detailed report covering the test criterion, data, methods and result, so we can't make a judgment on it," the official said.

Also, an investigation on GM products in China should be conducted in line with state-approved criteria, and the test should be done by a laboratory authorized by the ministry, he said.

Greenpeace campaigner Sze Pang Cheung said that a brief report was sent by express delivery service to the ministry Wednesday morning, and a detailed report is expected to be available in a day or two.

Liu Haiying said the GM rice seeds probably flowed into market from a laboratory at the Central China Agriculture University based in Wuhan, capital of Hubei, as the lab is conducting a field experiment on GM pest-resistant rice in adjacent areas of Wuhan, where Greenpeace found most of the "illegal product."

Because of undetermined bio-safety problems concerning GM crops, especially GM rice for human consumption, international opinions on the use of the GM technology diverge.

China has launched evaluation on the safety of GM rice, but theMinistry of Agriculture denied last December the possibility of an approval of commercial production in the near future.

Rice is one of the major grain crops grown in China with 1.3 billion population and accounts for one fourth of the total grain growing area in the country. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the grain yield in 2004 was 469.47 million tons, a figure still in a tight balance from the supply-demand point of view.

The United States has certified GM rice as safe, but hasn't putit into large scale production.

Some other GM crops, including soybean, cotton and corn have been grown on a large scale in the world.

China has adopted a principle of "scientifically planning, actively researching, steadily advancing and strengthening management" in promoting the GM technology research and utilization, and the country will stick to the principle on the issue of GM rice, the MOA official said.

The ministry has worked out a monitoring and supervision plan on the bio-safety of the GM crops and setting up a complete monitoring system. It has also ordered that GM products on market shelves be labeled as such, said the official.
MGR Archive 14.4.2005
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