China concludes 'successful' tests on transgenic rice

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

China concludes 'successful' tests on transgenic rice
Transgenic rice tests conducted by China’s Agricultural University have brought no abnormalities after 90 days of test according to researchers involved in the programme.

The genetically modified rice was tested on animals to see if it had any adverse health effects, drawing widespread attention among pro- and anti-GM groups.

According to Professor Huang Kunlun, who headed the research. guinea pigs and monkeys were used in the tests because their digestive systems and the way they processed nutrition bore strong similarities to the process in humans.

All animals tested healthy

The team carried out studies on the animals’ metabolism, immunity and reproductive systems since 2012, with researchers testing the evidence over 90 days. During this period, there were no reports of deaths or toxication, and all the animals tested were found to be healthy, according to Xinhua, China’s state news agency.

Xinhua quoted China’s Ministry of Agriculture as saying the tests were in line with a number of countries that had previously tested GM foods on animals. These include the US and Germany, which have used GM corn or beans on cows, chicken and fish.

Experts say a standardised testing procedure will be set up to ensure tests are reliable and accurate. Testing periods currently are 42, 45 and 90 days, depending on the type of animal.

This is the latest in a line of positive reports over genetic modification by the Chinese government and its institutions. As FoodNavigator-Asia reported last week, the country’s authorities have launched a public relations offensive to promote the benefits of GM food – most likely as part of a new policy to target food security, which China views as a critical issue.

Academic impatience

Earlier this year, 61 academics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering wrote a proposal to top Party leaders that said: “We can’t keep on waiting to promote the industrialisation of transgenic rice. If GMO industrialisation doesn’t develop, trade can’t develop. And it has an extremely big impact on scientific research​.”

Zhang Qifa, director of the National Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement at Huazhong Agriculture University, told Southern Metropolis Daily: “It’s not smart to rely on public opinion to make GMO industrialisation policy… If the regulations are not right, they should be revised. It’s like a football game: the referee makes the decision, not the fans​.” 

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