Nation to Handle GM Tech Carefully

China has a prudent attitude towards the application of genetic modification (GM) technology and is opposed to the cloning of people on Chinese territory, but cloning technology could be used for some reasonable kinds of research, top scientists said at a press conference held by the Fourth Session of the National Committee of the Ninth Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) yesterday.

"The Chinese scientific circle attaches great importance to GM technology, but at the same time, we are prudent about its safety," said Shi Yuanchun, a CPPCC member from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Shi said that the only genetically modified commodity commercially produced in China is cotton.

"The technology can be applied to other produce, but such research must be put under strict control to ensure its safety," said Shi, who is also an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

China has always attached paramount importance to the safety of bio-engineering. In 1993, China issued safety regulations to control this new technology, and a revised version is now being drafted, Shi said.

"We also participated in the drafting of the international biotechnology safety pact in Canada last year. We intend to conduct all research in accordance with international standards," he said.

China is opposed to the application of clone technology to people in China, but it could be used for just causes, said Hong Guofan, a CPPCC member from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Our attitude is both prudent and active," said Hong, who is director of the State Gene Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Moral principles allow cloning technology to be applied to research into what might enhance the welfare of human beings, Hong said.

For example, research into the cloning of liver cells may, if successful, help solve the problem of a shortage of human organs for transplants, he said.

If properly applied, cloning technology could also contribute to the protection and continuity of some rare species, which could become extinct if effective solutions are not found, Hong said.

During the press conference, scientists also said that China will step up its research into space technology.

"We will prioritize the development of space transportation technology," said Min Guirong, a CPPCC member from the China Space Technology Institute.

China will develop launch rockets with larger carrying capacities that do not pollute the environment, said Min, who is an academician with both the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

The use of man-made satellites, which could bring significant social and economic benefits, will also be increased.

(China Daily 03/09/2001)