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China Ratifies Protocol on Biosafety

China has ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which regulates the international trade of genetically modified organisms (GMO), the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) announced on Thursday.


The protocol obliges exporters to give greater information to recipient nations about GMO products. It also gives importers the power to reject GMO imports or donations, even without scientific proof, if it is believed they will pose a danger to traditional crops and indigenous societies.


The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, part of the Convention on Biological Diversity, came into effect in September 2003 and has since been ratified by 120 countries.


"The ratification of the protocol demonstrates China's commitment to enhancing management on biosafety in line with international law," said Wan Bentai, director of SEPA's Natural Ecosystem Department.


He said the ratification will also promote the development of legislation on the subject, strengthen the country's management of GMO cross-border movement, improve GMO labeling systems and promote the public's involvement in biosafety.


"China is drafting a law on GMO safety in order to better implement the protocol," Wan said.


Although China has made much progress in GMO research since the 1980s, there are still many loopholes in its management of the biosafety sector such as ineffective supervision in the face of growing import of GMO products.


Biotechnology broadly relates to the transfer of genes from one organism to another, giving the recipient favorable characteristics. For instance, biotechnology can be used to protect crops from pests and diseases or to make them grow faster. 


For example, some types of tomatoes and strawberries have been modified with a gene from a cold-water fish that protects the plants from frost. Opponents say such practices risk damaging the environment and increase the risks of species loss.


Wan said that the ratification of the protocol is also part of the country's efforts to conserve its biodiversity, which is under serious threat.


(Xinhua News Agency May 20, 2005)

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