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Hunan denies testing GM food on children

By Wen Ya (Global Times)

08:18, September 13, 2012

Authorities in Hunan Province denied Wednesday their human experiments are related to a controversial US-backed research project on genetically-modified (GM) rice.

"They are totally different," Wu Jianqiao, deputy director with Hengnan county's Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Hengyang, told the Global Times. "The experiments have been targeting healthcare products and conducted on adults only."

Wu was responding to Web users who claim the Hunan provincial CDC had established an experimental base, where GM rice was tasted on children attending the Jiangkou Township Center Elementary School, the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post reported.

The Ministry of Health Tuesday called for a thorough investigation into the US-backed research project on the rice, amid rising concerns from the public and the parents of pupils who had allegedly been fed the rice as part of an experiment.

Wu denied the existence of such a project, adding his county office has been conducting its experiments for years under the auspicious of the provincial CDC.

"We just provide a site for the provincial CDC and do what is told of us," Wu said. "All the experiments are conducted at local qualified hospitals and involve local volunteers between 40 and 50 years old. No children have participated."

Li Junhua, director with the Hunan provincial CDC, told the Global Times that "it's still not clear if there was GM rice involved" in the experiments.

Hu Yuming, a provincial CDC official, told the Oriental Morning Post that the experiments are conducted according to national regulations.

He Zhongqiu, principle of the school, told the newspaper that they have cooperated with the county CDC three times from 2007 to 2008. "I have never heard of the experimental base, or if any students at school have ever eaten GM rice."

Neither Hu nor He could be reached for comment as of late Wednesday.

"Human food tasting experiments are common and conducted worldwide before products go into production," Zhang Yongjian, an expert with the food safety office of the State Council, told the Global Times Wednesday.

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