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Debate Rages In China over Production of GM Products

For related articles and more information please visit OCA's Resource Center on Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and our Millions Against Monsanto Campaign.

Every time Zhao Fengxia shops for cooking oil, she checks the label to make sure she is buying non-genetically-modified (GM) soy oil.

"I am not sure whether GM food is safe or not. It just sounds scary," said Zhao, a 47-year-old food safety-conscious consumer who works in a Beijing hospital as an accountant. "I prefer non-GM soy oil, although it is more expensive than GM oil."

While there has been no evidence to show GM food is harmful to humans, controversy has been swirling around it for quite some time in China. It escalated after the Ministry of Agriculture granted bio-safety certificates to two pest-resistant GM rice varieties and a corn variety in November last year - a major step in promoting the research and planting of GM crops. The approval made China the first country in the world to give a nod to field trials of GM staple foods.

Officials, researchers and scientists are divided over whether and when GM food should be commercialized, despite consensus that more scientific research on GM technology should be encouraged. Supporters and opponents have also been facing off over environmental safety and economic security issues.

The Chinese government has put food security high on the agenda in its national development plans. China's State Council, or cabinet, approved a mid- and long-term grain security plan in 2008 that aims to keep annual output above 500 million tons by 2010 and to increase production to more than 540 million tons a year by 2020.

China's grain output reached 531 million tons last year, government data showed. But summer grain output fell by 0.3 percent this year to 123.1 million tons because of drought and low temperatures in grain-producing regions.
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