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Genetically Modified Food: Safe to Eat?

Genetic research may be an interesting topic for scientists to debate, but it is genetically altered food and cloned animals that have drawn greater concerns from the general public in China and worldwide.

Only one genetically modified product has been allowed to be sold on Chinese market and none can be imported, Ministry of Agriculture officials said.

The only genetically modified organism approved is a pest-resistant cotton created by Chinese biologists. That came only after a long list of strict procedures was followed leading to ministry approval. This cotton is now grown in many regions of China with few bio-safety concerns.

Yet as more genetically modified crops are expected to be approved, China will soon face trouble dealing with issues once experienced only by other countries, said an attendee of a conference held last week by the UNESCO China office and Hangzhou municipal government.

Wang Yuping, China representative of a Danish pig-breeding company, said it is urgent that China raise public awareness about bio-safety and bio-ethics, both of which has thus far been the realm of experts who speak in jargon.

"We must explain, in plain language, the answer to the one critical question: 'Is it safe to eat'?" Wang said.

For now, China is safe from any immediate threat because of its restrictions on genetically altered products. But the Chinese media, in focusing mainly on public fury and protests against genetically modified food in Western countries, has overlooked the question of whether the products are, in fact, safe.

(China Daily 04/09/2001)

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