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6-Regulation: China blocks imported GE food

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  China blocks genetically altered food
SOURCE: The Modesto Bee, USA, by Phelim Kyne, Associated Press
DATE:   July 21, 2002

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China blocks genetically altered food

BEIJING -- Fearing social unrest, China is trying to shield its farm sector 
from the bumps of World Trade Organization membership with regulatory 
import barriers for genetically modified agricultural products.

China's entry into the WTO last year was supposed to open its ag market to 
greater competition. But some say genetically modified products are giving 
China's bureaucrats a loophole to keep protecting local farmers.

Jikun Huang, director of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, said 
regulatory barriers to genetically modified ag imports are partially an 
attempt to shield China's farm sector from the impact of WTO entry.

He said the government was concerned that increasing foreign imports would 
lower the value of soybeans, wheat and maize from northern China.

"These issues convinced the government that we need some policy with regard 
to genetically modified agricultural products to support our economy," 
Huang told Dow Jones Newswires.

But by making biotechnology a health issue, China's policy-makers may be 
unwittingly setting up a consumer backlash against the modified crop 
strains that previously promised to provide China with greater security for 
its farm sector.

China's Ministry of Agriculture and the Administration of Quality 
Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine issued safety regulations in January 
that threaten to disrupt soybean imports from the United States valued at 
$1 billion a year.

While an interim agreement negotiated by the U.S. in March allowed a nine-
month grace period for imports to continue, both the Ministry of Health and 
the State Environmental Protection Administration have since introduced or 
announced regulations that could pose a threat to genetically modified 

Western biotech companies previously viewed China as a receptive market 
compared with some Western nations, where activists have denounced 
transgenic products as "Frankenfood."

China at first appeared eager to embrace new biotechnology that promised to 
improve yields and protect harvests from pests and drought.

But Huang said the possibility of a post-WTO flood of lower-priced, better 
genetically modified soybeans and maize muscling out domestic varieties 
from China's northern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning 
panicked policy-makers.


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