China launches investigation into illegal cultivation of genetically-modified crops

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 September, 2015, 4:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 September, 2015, 4:16pm

China will launch a nationwide investigation over the suspected illegal cultivation of genetically-modified crops, the agriculture ministry has posted on its website.

The investigation follows a report by an official financial newspaper this week that genetically-modified soybeans have been found in the country’s top growing area for the oilseed.

China is the world’s top buyer of genetically-modified soybeans, but Beijing has not given the go-ahead for domestic cultivation of genetically altered crops, although it has spent billions on research.

However, some farmers in the northeast province of Heilongjiang are growing GM soy crops illegally to seek higher yields, the China Business Journal reported this week.

The report identified an area near the city of Suihua where genetically-modified crops were allegedly being grown, but did not give any further details. The Heilongjiang agricultural commission has said on its website that it would also investigate.

Opponents of genetically-modified corps have long accused China’s agriculture ministry of poor supervision of crops under trials, saying seeds have been sold to farmers for cultivation. Former state broadcaster CCTV anchor Cui Yongyuan told reporters last year that genetically-modified rice was grown in some 20 Chinese provinces.

READ MORE: Genetically modified food in China: time to reap what scientists sow?

Heilongjiang, which produces about one third of the country’s total soybean output, is known for growing protein-rich non-GM soy crops used to make food products, including tofu and soy sauce.

China exports about 200,000 tonnes of soybeans a year, mainly to South Korea, Japan and United States.

The ministry revised regulations earlier this year to increase the supervision of biotech products under development amid heightened public concern over its ability to keep illegal GM products out of the food chain.

Port authorities have also cracked down on illegal sales of cheap genetically-modified varieties to food companies, especially in the eastern province of Shandong, the country’s largest distribution centre for imported soy, the China National Grain and Oils Information Centre said in August.