1.Top rice producer China approves GMO strain
2.China's elite eat all-organic

NOTE: Worth noting that this process has been slowly creeping forward for many years, and that, even if it it doesn't falter again this time, large scale production wouldn't start for another 2-3 years. Also worth noting that China's not a big rice exporter and that the Chinese rice crop is already GM contaminated, which has created some import problems for products containing Chinese rice. Item 2 shows how the Chinese elite insulate themselves from GM rice and other contaminated products.

EXTRACT: While China grapples with its latest tainted food crisis, the political elite are served the choicest, safest delicacies. They get hormone-free beef from the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, organic tea from the foothills of Tibet and rice watered by melted mountain snow.

And it's all supplied by a special government outfit that provides all-organic goods from farms working under the strictest guidelines.

As for rice, some comes from the northeast, grown from seeds specially cultivated by experts from the Jilin Academy of Agricultural Sciences... "It tastes very good. And it doesn't involve genetic engineering," said Wu. (item 2)
1.Top rice producer China approves GMO strain
Niu Shuping and Tom Miles
Reuters, 27 Nov 2009

* China approves pest-resistant Bt strain as safe

* Large scale production could start in 2-3 years

* China also approved first GMO strain of corn

BEIJING - China has approved its first strain of genetically modified rice for commercial production, two scientists involved in the approval process told Reuters on Friday, potentially easing the way for other major producers to adopt the controversial technology.

The approval of the locally-developed rice, as well as China's first GMO corn, shifts the global balance of power in food trade and could prompt other countries to follow suit, experts said.

It will also enable China, the world's top producer and consumer of rice, to grow more of its staple food amid shrinking land and water resources.

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture's Biosafety Committee issued biosafety certificates to pest-resistant Bt rice, two committee members told Reuters on Friday, with large-scale production to start in 2-3 years.

"We expect that with the Chinese approval of Bt rice it will be much easier for other countries to do this," said Robert Zeigler, director general at the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute, which is developing a number of GMO strains of rice.

But Greenpeace called the move a "dangerous genetic experiment" and said it had previously exposed illegal cases of genetically engineered (GE) rice in China.

"If the Ministry of Agriculture cannot even control the illegal cultivation of GE rice, how can they manage the risks of large scale cultivation?" Lorena Luo, Greenpeace's food and agriculture campaigner in China, asked in an emailed statement.

China, which wants to raise grain production 8 percent to 540 million tonnes a year by 2020, has splashed out on GMO research, with $3.5 billion going on rice, corn and wheat. [ID:nPEK321208]

The phytase corn was also locally developed by China's Academy of Agricultural Science and Nadaq-listed Origin Agritech Ltd <SEED.O>, which has seen its share price double since shareholders were notified of the approval on Saturday.

Phytase corn will help pigs digest more phosphorus, enhancing growth and reducing pollution from animal waste and fertiliser runoff.

The rice and corn strains are China's first GMO grains approved for commercial production, although it already permits GMO papaya, cotton and tomatoes.

The strains still need to undergo registration and production trials before commercial production can begin in restricted areas, which may take 2-3 years, the scientists said.

The scientists declined to be identified as the government has not officially published the information. Officials at the Agricultural Ministry's biosafety office declined to comment.

"According to our sources, our information is yes, there was a meeting of the Biosafety Committe on GE rice and corn and the meeting has granted certification," said Greenpeace's Luo.


China is the world's top producer of rice, growing 60 million tonnes in the 12 months to October, but it exports only around 50,000 tonnes a month as most is consumed domestically.

"China is trying to ensure food security for its people and it will show a direction to many countries, such as India, that this is one of the ways of increasing productivity and ensuring adequate food supplies," said one Singapore-based rice trader with an international trading company.

For a graphic showing China's rice output, please click:

Exports of GMO rice would be likely to face tough scrutiny abroad. Most of China's rice exports go to South Korea and West Africa, although there are buyers globally, including the United States, South America and Europe. China exports much more rice in prepared food, such as rice pasta or baby food.

The European Union's executive body, the European Commission, said in July that China needed to tighten export controls on rice products because shipments might contain traces of the Bt-63 strain, which is not authorised in the European Union.

While China is not yet growing GMO rice commercially, there are numerous field trials going on around the country.

Bt rice, developed by Huazhong Agricultural University, would help reduce the use of pesticide by 80 percent while raising yields by as much as 8 percent, said Huang Jikun, the chief scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"We believe more genetically-modified technology will be used in agriculture production in future to increase production and reduce inputs," said Huang.

The IRRI's Zeigler said India and Iran were also developing Bt rice and the Philippines could approve the IRRI-developed Vitamin A-enriched GM Golden Rice by late 2011 or early 2012.

The advent of commercial GMO production in China could affect global prices for rice, which rocketed in early 2008, sparking fears that the bedrock of Asian cuisine might be in short supply.

"This news signals that there will be no fear of food shortage as we can produce as much as we want and China itself will not have to import any more," said Kiattisak Kanlayasirivat of Thailand's Novel Agritrade Co Ltd.

"Prices of white rice would get back to $200-$300 per tonne again and supply should rise significantly," he said.

Benchmark 100 percent B grade white rice <RI-THWHB-P1> in Thailand, the world's top exporter and supplier of almost all of China's imports, was quoted at $565 per tonne this week.

But lower prices could also slow the spread of GMO rice.

"Suppose rice prices remain low in the next few years, countries will be reluctant to take in technology if they have some concerns about it," said Samarendu Mohanty, a senior economist at IRRI.

"If rice prices remain high, then countries will be more willing to consider Bt or any other technology to boost production," he said. "So the market has a role to play."
2.Amid milk scare, China's elite eat all-organic
Associated Press, 24 September 2008

*Government outlet provides safe, special food for the nation's leaders

BEIJING - While China grapples with its latest tainted food crisis, the political elite are served the choicest, safest delicacies. They get hormone-free beef from the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, organic tea from the foothills of Tibet and rice watered by melted mountain snow.

And it's all supplied by a special government outfit that provides all-organic goods from farms working under the strictest guidelines.

That secure food supply stands in stark contrast to the frustrations of ordinary citizens who have faced recurring food scandals - vegetables with harmful pesticide residue, fish tainted with a cancer-causing chemical, eggs colored with industrial dye, fake liquor causing blindness or death, holiday pastries with bacteria-laden filling.

Now that the country's most reputable dairies have been found selling baby formula and other milk products tainted with an industrial chemical that can cause kidney stones and kidney failure, many Chinese don't know what to buy. Tens of thousands of children have been sickened and four babies have died.

Citizens' outrage

Knowing that their leaders do not face these problems has made some people angry.

"Food safety is a high priority for children and families of government officials, so are normal citizens less entitled to safe food?" asked Zhong Lixun, feeding her 7-month-old grandson baby formula after he got checked for kidney stones at Beijing Children's Hospital.

The State Council Central Government Offices Special Food Supply Center is specifically designed to avoid the problems troubling the general population.

"We all know that average production facilities use large quantities of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Antibiotics and hormones are commonly used in raising livestock and poultry. Farmed aquatic products are contaminated by various kinds of water pollution," the center's director, Zhu Yonglan, said in a speech earlier this year.

"It goes without saying that these are harmful when consumed by humans," Zhu told executives at supplier Shandong Ke'er Biological Medical Technology Development Co., which posted it on its Web site.

Zhu's speech has been widely circulated by Chinese Internet users on blogs and forums in recent days, with many expressing outrage that top government officials have a separate - and safer - food supply than the public.

The special food center enforces strict standards on suppliers like Shandong Ke'er, which makes health supplements designed to boost immunity and energy. Foods must be organic, not genetically modified and meet international food standards, said a manager in the center's product department, who only gave her surname, Zhang.

The reason: its A-list clientele of government officials and retirees of vice minister rank or higher.

It's not unusual for China's leadership to have a special food supply; the practice stretches back thousands of years to farms providing ingredients for lavish imperial meals or the greasy, spicy dishes favored by Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong.

'Nation A' vs. everyone else

The former Soviet Union's ruling classes also ate food that was unavailable to the masses. In North Korea, where withering famines have seen tens of thousands starve over the past 13 years, leader Kim Jong Il is a gourmet known for his love of lobster, shark's fin soup and sushi. His former private chef has said Kim keeps an extensive collection of vintage French wines.

Set up in 2004, China's Special Food Supply Center is almost as secretive as its high-end clientele, whose precise number is unclear, but includes hundreds of top political leaders, their families and retired cadres. Much of the information on its Web site was removed after media inquiries and interview requests this week.

Goods deemed to meet the highest standards are stamped with the label "Nation A," which stands for "top end, irreplaceable, the best," according to the Web site. Those products are for senior politicians or government offices and not released to the general consumer market, said a customer service agent surnamed Dong.

Rice fed by melted snow from Mt. Changbai, which straddles the China-North Korean border, gets a "Nation A" rating, according to the Web site.

The center scours the country for purveyors in places famous for a particular product, said Zhang, the manager.

These include fish from Hubei province ó known traditionally as the "land of fish and rice" - tea from mountainous Yunnan province abutting Tibet, and beef and mutton from the Inner Mongolian steppes, according to Zhu's speech.

As for rice, some comes from the northeast, grown from seeds specially cultivated by experts from the Jilin Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said sales manager Wu Honghua of Chifeng Heiyupaozi Organic Agropastoral Development Co.

It "has a very small output. It tastes very good. And it doesn't involve genetic engineering," said Wu.

Wu said 90 percent of the rice goes to the Beidaihe Sanitorium ó a seaside resort for retired party cadres. The remainder is sold on the market, he said, at $4 a pound ó a price five times higher than regular organic rice and 15 times more than the price of ordinary rice.

A brand of organic tea supplied to the center sells for $187 a pound. "It's fresh and tender, smells good and has a bright color," said Xia Dan, an employee of the Huiming Tea Co. in eastern Zhejiang province.