GM corn seeds planted in Xinjiang smuggled from overseas: ministry

By Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/7 0:03:39

The genetically modified (GM) corn seeds illegally planted in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region came from overseas, China's agricultural authorities told the Beijing Times on Tuesday, warning that some of the GM crops might have been released on the market.

The company that planted the GM corn in Atlay prefecture, Xinjiang smuggled the seeds in from other countries, Lin Xiangming, director of GM organism safety and intellectual property at the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), told the Beijing Times on Tuesday.

Local authorities in Atlay prefecture discovered in May that a 133-hectare field had been illegally planted with GM corn seeds and ordered that the crops be uprooted, slapping the company that operated the field with a fine of 10,000 yuan ($1,497).

"Normally [GM seeds] are not allowed to go through customs, but it is difficult to ferret out all of them," Lin said, adding that it would be simpler for Chinese employees of US companies that produce GM seeds to bring the parent plants into China.

"It is also perfectly possible that during the experiment, GM crops may have entered the market," Lin said.

"Besides stealing from foreign companies that make GM products, [commercial growers] can also buy GM products aboveboard in some countries like the US, where certain types of GM products have been marketized," Lu Baorong, a biology professor at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"The biggest problem is a lack of law," Lu said, noting that under current regulations, companies that illegally plant and sell GM products "will only receive economic punishment at present, which will not prevent them from continuing the business."

The MOA lacks sufficient law enforcement abilities to supervise all GM companies and is only able to take actions against their products, Lin said.

He noted that the ministry is working with other authorities to designate illegal production and sale of GM products as crimes under China's criminal law, so companies could be charged with "engaging in illegal business operations" if the amendment is introduced.

Several cities in Northeast China announced in January that they would crack down on sales of GM corn seeds after news reports disclosed that GM corn was being grown in the region in 2015. Jilin Province has since revoked three companies' seed production licenses, according to previous reports.

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