Agricultural experts and Chinese authorities denied Greenpeace accusations of "out of control" genetically modified (GM) rice and cast doubt on its testing procedures.
At a news conference in Hong Kong yesterday, Greenpeace, an international environmental group, released its findings on GM crops in China.
During February and April, the group carried out tests on rice bought in Central China's Hubei Province.
Of the 25 samples taken, 19 contained GM rice, modified to contain a bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), that produces a toxin that kills pests, said Liu Haiying, programme director for Greenpeace in Beijing.
Samples collected in Hubei Province were sent to a gene testing laboratory in Germany, she said.
Greenpeace GE (genetic engineering) campaigner Sze Pang Cheung also said yesterday: "The GE industry is out of control."
Zhu Xinquan, chairman of the Chinese Society of Agro-Biotechnology, said: "I cannot agree with the findings of the report by Greenpeace and I am wondering if the tests conducted by the organization are scientific or not."
An official with the Office of Genetically Modified Organism Safety under the ministry of Agriculture said: "We have not seen the concrete testing reports. Moreover, the testing of GM rice seeds should be based on China's technical standards."
"We've asked the agricultural department in Hubei Province to conduct on-the-spot examination on this issue," said the official who declined to be identified.
Greenpeace estimated that 950 to 1,200 tons of GM rice were grown in China last year from a planted area of 1,900 to 2,400 mu (127 to 160 hectares).
This year the planted area will grow to 20,000 to 25,000 mu (1,333 to 1,667 hectares) with an output of 10,000 to 12,000 tons, the Greenpeace said.
The Chinese official admitted that field trials of GE rice are being conducted in Hubei as well in some other places.
But the official said the plantation acreage is limited to 30 mu (2 hectares).
Rice strains modified to contain Bt have been planted in China on a trial basis for several years as part of research conducted by Huazhong Agricultural University.
Zhu said "regulations on GM food have been in force for several years in China and the nation is doing more research before approving the commercialization of GM rice.
"A cautious attitude must be taken on the safety of GM rice since it is a highly important food for Chinese people."
The ministry official also added: "Sales of GM rice seeds are strictly prohibited and there are GM safety offices at province level to conduct regular checks on it."
Source: China Daily