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Heilongjiang passes regulation to ban GM crops

[CLI Code] CLI.N.16760504(EN) 

A provincial food security regulation prohibiting the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops has triggered criticism from some agricultural and legal experts.

The regulation was passed Friday by Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, marking the first regulation of this kind in the country.

The regulation bans growing of GM corn, rice and soybeans in the province, which is China's top grain producer, and prohibits production and sales of GM crops and supply of their seeds. The regulation will take effect on May 1, 2017.

"The local government lacks foresight as it has rejected any possibility of developing GM technologies in China," Lu Baorong, a biology professor at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that China will inevitably and eventually catch up with the global trend, after doing sufficient safety research on GM food crops.

The regulation is sending a passive message to consumers that GM food is unsafe, which cannot be proven, Lu said.

China currently approves only the production of GM cotton and papaya, and prohibits commercial production of any GM staple foods.

Heilongjiang's decision comes after 91.5 percent of respondents in a survey conducted in the province in October raised objections to GM crops, Xinhua reported on Friday.

"We support the research and development of transgenic technology, but we should be cautious in applying the techniques in crop production," Yao Dawei, director of the provincial legislature was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

The legitimacy of the newly passed provincial regulation has also been questioned by legal experts, since China's Food Safety Law, which is superior to the regulation, does not prohibit the growing of GM crops.

The regulation transcends the legislative power of the province, conflicting with the laws that are superior to the regulation, Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times, urging a law specifically on GM food and technologies in China.

It's good that a local government drafts legislation when superior laws are not in place, but the Heilongjiang legislative body had better study and conform to the existing laws, rather than simply ban all GM foods, Zhi said.

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