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Could the global tide in support of GMOs be turning? A new report reveals that the formerly pro-GMO Chinese government, one of the largest consumers of GMO food crops in the world, is beginning to crack down on GM corn shipments from the US that have not followed appropriate biosafety regulations.
According to a news brief released today by GMWatch.org, China destroyed three shipments of GM corn imported from the US. GMWatch.org reported:
"The law says that the [Chinese] Ministry of Agriculture must require environmental and food safety tests to be carried out by Chinese institutions, in order to verify data provided by the seed developer. All these documents must be reviewed by the National Biosafety Committee before the MOA can issue a safety certificate. Yet these shipments of US corn did not have the relevant safety certificates and approval documents, according to the news reports below."
The first two shipments are referenced on the website of the Zhuhai Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, confirming that two illegal GM corn shipments entered Wanzai Port in Zhuhai City on May 7th, and were subsequently destroyed:
Recently, during inspection and quarantine of imported food from USA by a certain company, the Wanzai Office of Zhuhai Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (in Guangdong Province in the south of China) detected two shipments containing GM corn products, which are not in compliance with China's "Entry and Exit of Genetically Modified Products Inspection and Quarantine Management Approach". The Office destroyed the two shipments of corn according to the provisions.*
The existence of a third shipment was confirmed in a May 19th article appearing on news.china.com.cn titled, "Harbin intercepted a total of 115 kgs of GM corn seeds, which will be destroyed":
Recently, the Harbin Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau intercepted inbound mail of 21 cartons of corn seeds from USA, totaling 115 kgs, which were detected as GM seeds. This is the first time that the Heilongjiang Provincial Inspection and Quarantine System has intercepted inbound corn seeds containing GM ingredients. These corn seeds will be destroyed. *
Surprisingly, despite these seemingly drastic steps by Chinese authorities to destroy GM seeds, an article in China Daily from last year explains that the consumption of GM soybeans is already universal in China, even despite widespread public concerns that they have not been adequately safety tested:
Summary: Imported RR soybeans (Roundup herbicide resistant GM soybeans) has already accounted to over 80% of total consumption of soybeans in China, but the assessment and approval procedures for the initial imported GM soybeans, has been oppugned that it's examination procedures exists with defects. According to news reports, on Feb. 20, 2012, Gu Xiu-lin and other three citizens upon application were approved to check the "certification documents for the GM soybeans obtaining safety certificates".
The China Daily article goes on to quote Shi Yan-quan, Deputy Director, Agricultural Finance and Education Dept., who stated on April 20, 2012, that over 50 million tons of GMO soybeans were imported to China in 2011 alone. The article also refers to the fact that for eight years, 1.3 billion Chinese consumers have been consuming Monsanto's GM food crops, relying entirely on biotech-funded safety evaluations, without any independent safety testing carried out by the Chinese government. Additionally, a revealing study published in 2012 found that the Chinese print media is completely co-opted by biotech industry influence. They revealed that "48.1% of articles were largely supportive of the GM technology research and development programs and the adoption of GM cottons, while 51.9% of articles were neutral on the subject of GMOs. Risks associated with GMOs were mentioned in the newspaper articles, but none of the articles expressed negative tones in regards to GMOs." The authors concluded: "Chinese print media is largely supportive of GMOs. It also indicates that the print media describes the Chinese government as actively pursuing national GMO research and development programs and the promotion of GM cotton usage."
Are these latest incidents a sign that the Chinese government is beginning to take more seriously the health threats associated with the consumption of genetically modified food? According to the GMWatch.org report's primary informant, who for purposes of anonymity goes by the pseudonym "Mr. Li":
"[T]he new government's decisive move to destroy the illegal GMOs "progressive, encouraging, and satisfying". He regards it as a sign that it is keeping its promise to work for the people and the nation.
Mr Li said: "The deeply pro-GMO old government would not have made such a thing public. It would have secretly returned the shipments, or in most cases it would not even have inspected shipments that could contain GM ingredients."
- GMWatch.org, China Destroys three Shipments of GM Corn from US, May 22nd, 2013
- *Translated by a Chinese citizen whose identity remains anonymous, but GMWatch refers to under the pseudonym as "Mr. Li."