Prior to officials from the Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau in Heilongjiang's provincial capital Harbin seizing and destroying 21 boxes of genetically modified (GM) corn seeds on May 18, few people in China were aware such food could be illegally imported into the country.
The boxes, which in total weighed 115 kilograms, were imported by two seed suppliers in Harbin from US companies. The names of all companies involved in the operation were not disclosed.
Quarantine officials responsible for the bust were not available for comment, while local seed suppliers denied knowledge of the seizure when contacted by the Global Times.
Under Chinese law, seeds entering China require certification from both importers and exporters that companies can attain by filing applications to related authorities. The GM corn seeds seized in May lacked any certification.
Unnamed quarantine officials told Chinese media after the bust that the seeds were destroyed because they threatened the local ecosystem. But there are wider concerns from the public about the threat GM foods pose to human health.
Jiang Gaoming, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Botany, described the seizure as "delightful news for researchers of GM grains."
"The news itself reflects the transparency of China's GM regulations, and will be helpful in letting the public know about the impact of GM grains and products," Jiang told the Global Times.
Jiang noted the Harbin bust could lead to tougher GM regulations in the country amid growing concern among experts about the risks posed by biotech foods.
Where's the bottom line of eye catching shows?
2,000 cheongsam fans put on a show in Shanghai
Dramatic dream in little theater
China's weekly story (2013.5.24-5.31)
Bodyguard trainees experience 'Hell Week'
47 dead, 34 injured in SE China bus fire
Photos story: Mask girl's hard life
70-year-old son's love for 96-year-old mother
Massive fire kills scores at poultry plant in NE China