Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Leaky GMO Seed Trials

China's Ministry of Agriculture is taking some heat for allowing unapproved genetically modified (GMO) varieties of corn and rice leak into the market.

On June 30 the Ministry of Agriculture held a meeting to discuss management of GMOs. According an article posted on many web sites this week, the Ministry of Agriculture's oversight of GMOs was described as "relatively chaotic."

At the meeting MOA officials repeatedly said, “No imported genetically modified grain seeds have ever been approved and no permits have been given for planting any GMO grains in the country.” However, the article says Chinese fields already have large areas planted in GMO’s, including corn “not approved for commercialization” and GMO rice.

In 2010 testing began on three kinds of GMO corn seed: Denghai 3686 (named after a scientist Li Denghai), Zhongnongda 386 and Zhongnongda 4 (apparently named after Central China Agricultural University). In December 2010 the Ministry of Agriculture issued a notice banning sale of these seeds for a year. However, the article says companies took advantage of the publicity and offered rebates, discounts, and promotions to distribute the seeds more widely. The article says these "illegal GMO corn seeds" are planted on thousands of acres in Sichuan, Hunan, Guizhou, Liaoning, Jilin. A spokesman at the meeting sighed, “This year there may be several million mu of fields 'contaminated!'"

Central China Agricultural University in Wuhan is conducting trials on GMO rice seeds, but there is consternation that rice from these trials is being sold into markets all over southern China and mixed with conventional rice. The Ministry of Agriculture spokesman was said to have described the mixing of GMO seeds as "very serious." An expert speaking "bluntly" at the meeting said that it is very hard to keep trials closed. If someone sees things in the field that are successful they will want to try them out. There is “no way to control farmers from harvesting rice and selling it.” These remarks "caused a public outcry."

In his speech at the meeting, the MOA spokesman clearly stated that MOA must publicly criticize the organizations in charge of regulating GMOs and punish negligent MOA staff.

A photo of a sign posted on an online forum in response to the GMO article. It was accompanied by a call for China to expel foreign seed companies that are a "threat" to Chinese seed companies and Chinese people.

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