On 17 August the permits to grow genetically modified rice and corn in China expired. The Ministry of Agriculture decided not to renew them, which means research groups will have to stop growing them. The GM rice 5-year certificates were approved in 2009 and Chinese research facilities produced two types of rice carrying genes from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis(Bt) to make them resistant to pests.
At the same time scientists in Beijing got a green light for producing GM corn which was altered so that the kernels contain phytase (livestock feed additive that boosts absorption of phosphorus, which enhances growth) The certificates expired this month.
Ever since their release, the people of China had grown doubtful of the advantages that GM foods are rumored to offer. Moreover, the public even criticized some of the researchers who openly expressed their support for the GM plant testing.
It is controversial why the government decided not to renew the documents but preservationists suggest that the concern of the people may have been the main reason. The rather stable state of China’s production of rice may have also been one of the reasons for the Ministry’s final decision. Huang Jikun, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, stated that there is no need of prolonging the certificates.
Several years ago it was believed that China was going to “put GM rice on the country’s dining tables” but the latest decision made an unexpected change. Cao Cong, a China policy expert at University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, wrote that the Bt rice idea is “dead and buried” and that the ones responsible for this event are the movements against GM foods.
Despite that, China’s general policy on agricultural biotechnology isn’t influenced by the latest events. Experts say that Bt corn research has been enhanced and the public doesn’t seem to disapprove because corn is mostly fed to livestock.
Written by Ivayla Ganeva