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China Modifies GMO Regulations

China is drawing up an interim measure to ensure smooth imports of genetically modified organism (GMO) products, said the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC) yesterday.

The temporary measure that would ensure safe handling of GMOs will be published soon, the ministry said in a statement.

MOFTEC's announcement came after "positive and fruitful" talks between China and the United States earlier this week on GMO products.

The Chinese delegation to the talks was headed by Ma Xiuhong, vice-minister of MOFTEC.

Besides MOFTEC officials, delegation members also included Ministry of Agriculture and State General Administration for Quality Supervision and Inspection and Quarantine representatives.

MOFTEC officials said they are seriously considering complaints from US soybean traders about the Chinese GMO regulations and are actively seeking measures to ensure smooth trading.

But they said the Chinese Government is also greatly concerned with the safety of GMO products.

Some experts said the increasing use of GMO products may pose a danger to biological diversity and human health in China.

These concerns have led the Chinese Government to issue the regulations on the safe management of GMO products as well as to create biological safety management organizations to research and train management and technical staff, they said.

Zhang Xiaoping, an official with the Beijing office of the American Soybean Association, said a bulletin explaining the temporary measures is widely expected to come out before the Chinese regulations on GMO products take effect on March 20.

It is expected to include detailed procedures on applying for safety certificates, market access and labelling.

Last June, China established rules to strengthen the safety and management of GMO products, which alarmed US exporters of GMO products such as soybeans, corn and cotton.

The Ministry of Agriculture later announced that the rule did not apply to import contracts signed before June 6 and has virtually reversed the law.

China continued to import large amounts of GMO products last year, by using contracts that were made to appear as if they had been signed before June 6 while the goods passed through Chinese customs.

China then supplemented the law with more detail in early January, which will now take effect on March 20.

But US traders still complain that the rules are not explicit and practical and demand specifics and explanations from Chinese authorities.

(China Daily March 9, 2002)

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