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China to Become 14th Country to Ratify Biosafety Protocols

China is to ratify an international convention on biosafety to further regulate the country's development and implementation of modern biotechnologies, according to the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

The protocol -- known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) -- is aimed at curbing the adverse effects of modern biotechnologies on ecological diversity, environment and human health.

China signed the protocol on August 8, 2000, and is preparing for a national law on biosafety under the protocol and relevant World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Wang Dehui, director-general with the Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation under the SEPA, said it would be formally ratified later this year.

Under the protocol, risk assessment of adverse effects on the local environment is required before living modified organism (LMO) products are allowed to enter importers' territories.

Zhu Guangyao, vice-minister with the SEPA, yesterday expressed the Chinese Government's support of modern biotechnologies, but great concern at biosafety.

According to expertise at the workshop, "biosafety" refers to the potential adverse effects caused by LMOs in the process of research, development, use and transboundary movement on biodiversity, environment and human health, especially the potential risks and threat of the large-scale release of LMOs.

Zhu said the government should have a clear concept of the "twin aspects" of modern biotechnology.

Zhu made these words to representatives from 45 countries around the Asia-Pacific region who were attending the Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop on Biosafety held in Beijing by United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), CBD Secretariat and SEPA through Friday.

Transgenic plants with pest resistance, for example, may also threaten those beneficial organisms while killing pests or viruses, according to SEPA, and therefore destroy the local food chain and ecosystems.

Furthermore, part of LMOs and their products used as food may have toxicity and sensitivity to human beings.

Kirsty Galloway McLean, a senior officer with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity yesterday urged representatives of 45 countries to join and ratify the protocol.

A total of 113 countries have signed the protocol but only 13 of them have formally ratified it, according to McClean. The protocol needs 50 ratifications before taking effect.

UNEP official Christopher Briggs spoke highly of China's continued efforts to promote the adoption of the protocol.

"These efforts for biosafety will benefit the country, as well as the whole international community," said Briggs.

(China Daily March 5, 2002)

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