Sunday, August 28, 2016

China Destroyed Transgenic Corn Fields

Chinese agricultural officials said they destroyed 1100 mu (181 acres) of genetically modified corn fields during 2015. The announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture was intended to assure consumers that officials are strictly regulating production of genetically modified crops. The announcement follows release of a 2016-2020 plan for science and technology that promises R&D and commercialization of corn and other genetically modified crops.

The destroyed transgenic corn fields were discovered in three provinces that are centers for seed breeding and propagation: Xinjiang, Gansu, and Hainan. Presumably, the corn was being grown to be sold as seed. No genetically modified corn seeds have been approved for commercial production in China. Certain varieties of genetically modified corn produced in other countries have been approved by Chinese officials for import (but not for planting in China).

Attention was drawn to the widespread illegal planting of genetically modified corn by a Greenpeace report released late in 2015 which claimed to find genetically modified material in over 90 percent of corn samples taken from fields, seed shops, and markets in Liaoning Province. A China Dialogue article said the source of the seeds was "a mystery" and quoted a Chinese crop scientist who alleged that illegal planting of genetically modified corn had been commonplace in Liaoning Province for a decade with little enforcement or regulation. The recent Ministry of Agriculture announcement did not mention finding any illegal corn in Liaoning or other major corn-producing northeastern provinces.

The Ministry of Agriculture announcement promises strict checks for transgenic corn during key periods of spring sowing and fall harvest. They will strictly regulate test plots, distribution, and seed production areas, and take samples from seed shops. The Ministry says Liaoning Province launched an enforcement program this year jointly conducted by the provincial agriculture commission, police, and the industrial-commercial bureau. They have discovered three cases of illegal genetically modified corn seed this year, and the Liaoning officials promise to trace the seeds to their source and severely punish the perpetrators.

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