Academician Liu Yaoguang: GM crops cannot be approved for production until all the public accept it

"(Genetically modified crops) should still go to the market, and the public decides in the market." Liu Yaoguang, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was interviewed by the surging news during the "High-level Seminar on Agricultural Biological Breeding Industrialization? 2018" held in Beijing on July 11 Said, "If you want to wait for all the public to accept before approving production, you will never wait for that day."

Transgenic refers to the use of modern biological technology to artificially separate the excellent genes of an organism into the genome of another organism, thereby improving the original traits of the organism or giving it new traits.

Academician Liu Yaoguang is the dean of the School of Life Sciences, South China Agricultural University. In 2008, the research team led by Liu Yaoguang published a paper in the American Academy of Sciences, which clarified the molecular basis of rice indica-japonica hybrid male sterility and its affinity. Published the first paper on the molecular mechanism of plant hybrid male sterility.

China is a big agricultural production country and a big consumer country. It has more people, less land and water shortages, frequent flood and drought disasters, and a high incidence of diseases and insect pests. Therefore, the fundamental way to solve the bottleneck of agricultural modernization lies in modern agricultural biotechnology. At present, China has obtained a variety of genetically modified crops with important agricultural shapes through biotechnology research, such as insect-resistant rice, phytase corn, herbicide-tolerant soybeans and so on.

At the policy level, He Xiaodan, deputy director of the GMO Safety and Intellectual Property Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said that China ’s supervision of GMO technology is technologically advanced, and management policies accompany and respond to technological developments. Since 2007, 7 issues on the deployment of genetically modified working systems have been written into the Central Document No. 1.

"China's thinking on genetically modified development strategy is consistent-bold in research and cautious in promotion." He Xiaodan said.

China adopts a safety evaluation system for the research and testing of genetically modified crops, requiring that from experimental research, intermediate testing, environmental release to productive testing, a safety certificate can only be obtained if there are no problems at each stage. At present, the application rate of genetically modified cotton and papaya in China has reached more than 90%. Bt insect-resistant rice and phytase corn have also completed the experimental stage and obtained safety certificates, but these crops have been struggling to get out of the experimental field.

Liu Yaoguang, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Peng Mei News () that although he had a safety certificate, the next step of variety certification was to close the door to GM crops. Because rice and corn are big crops, they must pass the variety certification, and only the variety rights can be promoted, but China's variety certification is limited to non-genetically modified varieties. Therefore, even genetically modified crop varieties that have already received safety certificates can only stay in the test field.

Also in Europe, due to the government's cautious promotion attitude, the Czech Republic and Slovakia stopped the cultivation of genetically modified corn in 2017, because the law stipulates that feed processing plants must use non-genetically modified corn.

At present, genetically modified crops are respected by food-deficit countries because of their ability to withstand cold, drought, and insects, but there are also public concerns about the safety of genetically modified foods. Therefore, there is no unified regulatory principle for genetically modified foods in various countries. From a global perspective, the safety supervision of genetically modified crops is mainly based on scientific principles or preventive principles.

The supervision of genetically modified foods in the United States follows the principles of science and substantive equivalence, and the management of genetically modified agricultural products under the existing legal framework. Among them, scientific principles refer to the use of scientific attitudes and methods to study, analyze and evaluate the potential risks caused by genetically modified organisms, and determine their safety levels and monitoring measures. The principle of substantial equivalence refers to the comparison between genetically modified foods and non-genetically modified foods. If there is no difference in nutritional content, toxicity, allergy, etc., the two are considered to be substantially equivalent and there are no safety issues.

The EU adopts the principle of prevention for genetically modified products, that is, for some potential threats or irreversible harm, even if there is insufficient scientific evidence, effective measures should be taken to prevent it.

Academician Xu Zhihong, a professor at the School of Life Sciences at Peking University, said that genetically modified food is not the only way to solve food safety, but only a way.

"Everyone's attitude towards new things should be based on scientific basis and rational discussion." Academician Xu Zhihong said.

Further reading: How to mark genetically modified crops for sale?

At present, China adopts the principles of label catalog, mandatory labeling and qualitative labeling for the labeling of genetically modified organisms. All agricultural genetically modified organisms listed in the label management catalog and used for sales should be labeled; those that are not labeled shall not be imported or sold.

China formulated the first batch of genetically modified biomarkers in 2002, and it has been used so far. There are a total of 17 types in 5 categories, namely:

Soybean seeds, soybeans, soybean flour, soybean oil and soybean meal

Corn seeds, corn, corn oil, corn flour

Rapeseed, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, rapeseed meal

Cotton seeds

Tomato seeds, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste

Currently, there are no products such as genetically modified tomato seeds, fresh tomatoes and tomato paste on the Chinese market.

On July 9, China issued an announcement on strengthening the management of edible vegetable oil labels, stating that genetically modified edible vegetable oils should be marked on labels and instructions in accordance with regulations. For those that have not been approved for use as raw materials for processing and have not been approved for commercial cultivation in the country, and that such genetically modified crops and their processed products do not exist on the market, the labels and instructions for edible vegetable oils shall not bear the words "non-GMO". Further standardize and strengthen the mandatory labeling system for genetically modified crops.

Most countries and regions around the world also adopt mandatory label management policies. In 1997, the European Union adopted Regulation 258/97, requiring mandatory labeling management of all genetically modified products (food / feed) within the European Union, and set a minimum content threshold for labeling genetically modified foods. Russia, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, the Czech Republic and Thailand have successively formulated their own mandatory labeling policies for genetically modified products, requiring manufacturers to label on a voluntary basis and set thresholds for labeling genetically modified foods.

Countries such as Canada, Argentina, and Hong Kong, China, adopt a voluntary labeling policy. In February 2001, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China proposed a labeling management proposal for genetically modified foods, which required the implementation of a voluntary labeling management policy based on the principle of substantial equivalence for genetically modified foods. Traditional counterparts do not have substantial equivalence, it is recommended to mark such differences on the label. In July 2016, the United States adopted the National Bioengineering Food Information Disclosure Standard, which provides for mandatory labeling of genetically modified food. This means that the United States has changed from the voluntary labeling of genetically modified foods to a mandatory labeling system.

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