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Why China gives green light to US GMOs?
www.chinaview.cn 2004-05-03 11:39:46

    BEIJING, May 3 (Xinhuanet) -- China has issued final safety certificates for the importation of five varieties of American genetically modified (GM) products last February, which has aroused some organizations' concern over why China gives a green light to the US GM organisms (GMOs).

    According to China's Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), all the five varieties, one soybean, two corn and two cotton, are from Monsanto, an American GM seed giant.

    The American Soybean Association President Ron Heck on Feb. 23 said that China's decision "will help ensure a steady market for US soybeans, while helping stabilize meat, fish, egg, and cooking oil prices for Chinese consumers."

    This, however, may not be the case, says Sze Pang Cheung, campaign manager of environmental group Greenpeace China, who had tried to persuade the Chinese government to restrict the use of GMOs in the world's largest market for soybeans.

    "GM biotechnology is not an issue of science for scientists and policy-makers," he says. "It could endanger our social and physical environment."

    Some domestic media perceive there must be "pressures from the US government on the Chinese" to balance China's trade surplus with the US in 2003.

    Domestic Demand

    Duan Wude, director of MOA's Research and Development Center denies it. "There was no factor for compromise throughout our negotiations with the Americans," he says. "What really drove us to the move was our domestic demand for soybean."

    Duan says the rapid development of husbandry has led to a steeprise in China's demand for bean cakes as feed and people's improved living standard has also stimulated the consumption of vegetable oil, but China has witnessed a shortage of the crop.

    "If we don't import soybean, we'll have to import bean oil, which means we give up the profits of bean processing," says Duan.And there is not much choice for China if it needs to import soybean: In international trade of soybean, GMOs account for 90 percent of transactions, almost all from the United States, Braziland Argentina.

    The green light was not signaled without precaution, says another MOA official who would remain anonymous.

    Before the latest issuance of the safety certificates, the importation of GMOs had followed the Provisional Regulations on the Safety Management of GM Agricultural Products the MOA issued in 2002, which required every shipment of GM agricultural products to export to China for processing should apply for "interim certificates" from the MOA and the State Quality and Quarantine Administration two months in advance, with packaging samples, technical documents evaluating edibility and nutrition quality, and a verified report on safety.

    The Provisional Regulations expire on April 21, 2004, when all the previously issued interim certificates will become invalid.

    "We are now conducting regular management on the importation of GMOs in accordance with international practice," says the MOA official. "All the steps taken, including the interim certificates,have followed the World Trade Organization's rules."

    Monsanto had to wait for two years for the safety certificates because of China's safety concerns, says Duan Wude. "Nobody can guarantee that no single grain of GM soybean will find its way to the field, so we must conduct field safety tests." (more)

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