China Ratifies Biosafety Protocol on Transgenic Organisms

BEIJING, China, May 24, 2005 (ENS) - China has become the 120th nation to ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which shows that the country wants to take a cautious approach on genetically modified organisms, an official with the State Environmental Protection Administration said Sunday.

The protocol - a subsidiary agreement to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity - aims to regulate the transboundary movement of genetically modified organisms, which may pose risks to biological diversity, the environment and human health.

Wan Bentai, director of the Nature Conservation Department at the State Environmental Protection Administration, announced China's ratification at a press conference in Beijing to mark the 11th International Day for Biological Diversity, the "China Daily" reports. "Biodiversity: Life Insurance for our Changing World," is the theme of this year's anniversary.

An economist, Dr. Wan said China is preparing for a national law on genetically modified organisms and biosafety, based on the principles of the protocol and relevant World Trade Organization rules.


Dr. Wan Bentai is the director of the Nature Conservation Department at the State Environmental Protection Administration (Photo courtesy Hefei Institutes)
"China is taking a precautionary approach to the environmental release of GMOs in order to prevent possible risks," Wan said.

"We will take effective measures to control and supervise the research, development, use and movement of GMOs and follow international practice in this field," he pledged.

But several countries that export genetically modified crops - Argentina, Australia, Canada and the United States - have not ratified the protocol yet.

The protocol requires that countries be informed and agree in advance to imports of products, derived from genetically modified products.

The newspaper quoted Xue Dayuan, a professor with the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Science as saying,"This means that countries have the right to ban or restrict imports when there is a lack of scientific knowledge or consensus regarding their safety."


Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn (Photo courtesy Monsanto)
China is one of the world's largest importers of genetically modified organisms since the country approved the import of five food crops in February 2004. China granted safety certificates to five of Monsanto strains - Roundup Ready soybeans, one version of Roundup Ready corn, YieldGard Corn Borer, Bollgard cotton and Roundup Ready cotton. Roundup is the trade name of one of Monsanto's most popular pesticides.

Foreign genetically altered crops can now enter China with the Ministry of Agriculture's official seal of approval.

The safety certificates became pivotal allowing genetically modified products to enter China.

Under Chinese laws, all genetically modified crops entering the nation for research, production or processing must be certified by the ministry to ensure the goods are safe for people, animals and the environment.