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Draft law on GM food online to solicit comments

By Jin Zhu  (China Daily)

09:10, February 23, 2012

BEIJING - China plans to set up a strict law on the management of genetically modified food in response to nationwide concerns about the safety of related agricultural products.

The draft of a new grain law was posted on the website of the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council on Tuesday for public comment until the end of March.

The draft requires that all activities related to GM seeds, including scientific research, field trials, production, sales, imports and exports, be carried out in accordance with the country's regulations.

It is forbidden to use GM technology to develop principle grain cultivars without approval in advance, according to the draft.

The move is seen as a major effort by the central government to deal with safety concerns of GM food.

In 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture issued bio-safety certificates to two strains of pest-resistant GM rice and corn in what was considered a major development in promoting the research and planting of GM crops.

The strains still need registration and production trials - which will take three to five years - before commercial planting can possibly begin, according to the ministry.

The certificates triggered great worries and queries among the public and professionals since the safety of GM technology has not been verified in many countries.

"It showed that authorities now are cautious when dealing with GM food, which could be helpful to prevent GM technology from being abused," Jiang Gaoming, professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Botany, told China Daily.

"Since it is just a draft document now, the government has to make its final decision as soon as possible," he said.

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