China will continue to promote research into genetically modified crops while maintaining strict controls on safety of the technology, a top agriculture official said on Tuesday, underscoring Beijing’s cautious approach towards biotechnology.

The comments came after a major policy document, known as the “number one document”, called for strengthening of GMO research and safe management of the technology, as well as educating the public on the issue.

It was the first time that the document, released early each year and focusing on agriculture, had explicitly addressed the increasingly fervent debate among the Chinese public around safety of GMO foods. That prompted speculation in local media about a possible shift in the government’s position.

But Han Jun, deputy head of the Communist Party’s office on rural affairs, said the new document was “consistent” with current policy on biotech.

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