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March 4, 2014

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Illegally grown GM crops ending up on consumers’ dinner plates

CHINA’S consumers are unwittingly eating illegally grown genetically modified crops, a former television talk show host claimed yesterday.

GM corn and rice is being grown illegally on a large scale in central China’s Hunan and Hubei provinces, Jiangxi Province in the east and northeastern province Jilin, said Cui Yongyuan, best-known for China Central Television shows.

While genetic modification in crops can provide resistance to disease, pesticides and climatic conditions, opponents say risks have not been adequately identified.

“The reality is that many (illegally grown) GM products have entered our food chain,” Cui said yesterday.

He is now demanding answers from the Ministry of Agriculture.

“The ministry should respond to my survey results, or it will lose face,” Cui said.

He said China has never approved widescale planting of GM crops, only permitting small experimental trials.

GM seeds intended for trials should not be available for general use, but illegal planting has taken place, with the crops finding their way onto the market, said Cui.

Cui said that he spent more than a million yuan (US$162,654) carrying out surveys around China, the United States and Japan over six months.

He plans to broadcast the resulting documentary.

The Ministry of Agriculture did not respond to Cui’s claims yesterday.

While Cui’s claims concern illegally grown GM crops, Chinese consumers use legally grown imported GM products on an everyday basis.

“In China, more than half of cooking oil used is soybean oil, and 90 percent of that is made from GM soybeans,” said Wang Xiaoyu, deputy secretary general of the soybean association in northeastern province Heilongjiang.

The country imports GM soybean, corn, cotton, rape and sugar beet — with soybean the largest import.

China imported 58.38 million tons of soybean last year, with most GM varieties used as raw material for oil.

Globally, 81 percent of the soybeans cultivated are GM varieties, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, a monitoring group funded by the biotechnology industry.

But while China requires strict labeling for GM produce, often this is flouted.

Meanwhile, 61 members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering have written to the government, urging it to roll out a GM rice cultivation program.


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