China drags its heels on GM rollout (20/1/2005)

China drags its heels on GM rollout

20/01/2005 - China, potentially one of the most promising markets for genetically modified (GM) crops, is stalling the adoption of transgenic plant cultivation as a cautious government ponders their safety, reports Anand Krishnamoorthy.

The government is unlikely to take a decision "anytimesoon" on the introduction of more GM crops and "it has less interest on the issue than a year ago," said Paul French, an analyst with market intelligence provider Access Asia based in Shanghai.

The Chinese government had been expected by many to grant permission for GM crops but Beijing has thus far only allowed the cultivation of transgenic cotton, with all other GM crops banned. The import and export of GM produce is also not permitted.

In some ways the GM issue is one that "the government does not want to get involved in," explained French, not least because there is considerable opposition to GM crops in China as there is elsewhere in the world, primarily from environmental groups.

Currently, only test crops and pre-production trials are permitted for a handful of cereal crops such as corn. The area under such cultivation is also coming down as there is preference towards hybrid crops rather than the GM ones. Nonetheless, according to some reports, China has about three million hectares under transgenic crops.

Any move by China on the GM front will have global ramifications, and could impact decisions of other countries like India with the potential for major GM crop production. The addition of large volumes of Chinese GM crops on global commodity markets would also have a major impact on prices, with transgenic crops considered to be cheaper to produce than traditional varieties. [??!]

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