GM safety certificates expire as debate heats up
The safety certificates for two kinds of GM rice and one type of Monsanto brand GM corn - the only three types of GM food that still had national GM certificates - expired on Sunday, effectively meaning that they are no longer regarded as safe by the authorities.
The news comes in the wake of reports from students at Huazhong Agricultural University in China alleging that an illegal GM rice trial on the University's students has led to an incidence of acute leukemia of up to three times the normal rate.
GM food meets new hurdle
ecns.cn, 18 Aug 2014
* Grain safety certificates expire as debate heats up
The safety certificates for two kinds of genetically modified (GM) rice and one type of Monsanto brand GM corn - the only three types of GM food that still had national GM certificates - expired on Sunday, effectively meaning that they are no longer regarded as safe by the authorities.
Having this kind of certificate is a crucial step in receiving permission to sell GM products. At present no GM grain products are permitted to be sold in China, but GM papaya and cotton are permitted.
Analysts say that if the expiration occurs without any renewal, it will represent another hurdle for food companies trying to sell GM products in China, and that it may also make the public more wary of GM food.
The MOA accepted the safety evaluation application in 1999 for the two kinds of GM rice, both developed by the Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, Hubei Province, and issued the safety certificates on August 17, 2009.
With the expiration looming, it means it is possible the developers of the GM rice will need to re-submit an application. "It may take at least two years to get a certificate," Shanghai-based news portal thepaper.com quoted Xue Dayuan, a chief expert at the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China, as saying on Sunday.
The MOA for the first time published the safety evaluation documents on the two GM rice types on July 18, five years after issuing of the certificate.
The documents included the process of toxicity detection of GM rice and its test reports.
However, Wang Jing, a campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, questioned some details in the evaluation document and told the Global Times on Sunday that the safety certificate was issued five years ago without these materials, which was not transparent for the public. The renewal application this time is likely to meet stricter obstacles.
The MOA later issued a statement saying it would punish any companies or individuals growing or selling GM grains.
"The strict management on GM food and the science popularization of people's awareness of GM food is the right way to accelerate the commercialization of GM food techniques," said Luo Yunbo, director of the food science and nutritional engineering school of China Agricultural University and a supporter of GM food.
However, as a critic of GM food, Wang said that GM food could pose risks to the environment and health.
Since 1997 the MOA has issued seven production safety certificates for GM plants, but four of them previously expired.
Although the sale of GM rice is illegal in China, China Central Television found it was on sale in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province and Hunan, Anhui, and Fujian provinces.