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10.2.10

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China has given the green lights to the controversial genetically modified rice after they are put through a process of production trails and made suitable for wider commercial use.

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Beijing's argument is that GM rice is necessary to feed its growing population in the face of shrinking farmland.

Huang Dafang, a member of the Biosafety Committee at the Ministry of Agriculture in Beijing has said that genetically modified organism technology is essential to ensure grain security. The ministry of agriculture has also begun issuing bio-safety certificates to strains of pest-resistant GM rice and corn.

But it may take up to five years for the process of these rice strains to be registered and put through production trials before commercial output can begin, the official media quoted Huang as saying.

The adoption of GM rice in China might result in its worldwide use and weaken the resistance to it, sources said. Experts like Fang Lifeng, Greenpeace's food and agriculture campaigner, have warned China that widespread adaptation of this rice carry long-term risk for the mankind.

The Chinese government has been debating on this issue after the Huazhong Agricultural University developed Bt rice containing proteins from a bacte. Some experts have said that widespread adoption of the GM rice may bring about a sharp 80% reduction in pesticide use, and push up crop yield by eight per cent.

Huang's announcement comes in the wake of calls by government officials to step up efforts to mass-produce and commercialize GM crops based on scientific assessment and strict regulation.

"The issuing of bio-safety certificates has great implications as it is the first time a major grain producer is endorsing the use of GM technology in a food staple," said Xue Dayuan, professor of biotechnology at Minzu University of China.

China has set a target of increasing grain output by 50 million tons between 2009 and 2020.

"Once GM technology is used for mass production, it would definitely help China achieve that target and feed its 1.3 billion people," Huang, who also a researcher with the Biotechnology Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said. The move is of "great political and economic significance," he said.

"The use of GM technology is an inevitable trend for the global agriculture industry, including China," he said. It has been scientifically proven that the approved GM strains are as safe as non-genetically modified varieties, he said.

At present, about 10% of the non-genetically modified rice output is lost annually due to pests. This loss can be avoided using the GM technology, he said.

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