China’s state council has drafted a proposal for a new law that would restrict, among other things, the research, production, and sale of genetically engineered rice. Monica Tan, the Beijing-based web editor of Greenpeace East Asia, assesses the likely impact of the new law and traces its roots on the Diplomat’s China Power blog:
“This is actually a world-first initiative that deals with GE food legislation at state law level,” according to my colleague, Fang Lifeng, a food and agriculture campaigner with Greenpeace.
“There are currently too many loopholes and weak control over GE food and technology in China. This law needs to clarify what ‘relevant laws and regulations’ can be applied to regulate GE crops. We urge legislators to accelerate the legislation of Genetically Engineered Organisms Bio-safety Law, and also to enhance the supervision of GE food and other products. Otherwise, this law will only be paying lip service,” Fang warned.
The grain law will likely have significant ramifications for China’s rice, the country’s most important staple food. The origins of rice cultivation can be traced to the valleys of the Yangtze River, with some estimates suggesting cultivation began over 7,000 years ago. It dictates the lives of millions of farmers in the Chinese countryside and feeds over a billion Chinese citizens each year. And using experimental GE technology to meddle with such a widely eaten crop could spell disaster – ecologically, financially and for human health.
This latest announcement comes after a highly successful and complex seven year campaign by activists to keep GE rice out of the country’s food market.
On China Hearsay, Stan Abrams writes that the new law may indicate that China is prioritizing food safety over food security.