Greenpeace said in a report released last Wednesday that farmers in northeast China are illegally growing genetically modified corn. [1]

The environmental group led an 8-month investigation last year into what it describes as large-scale production of GMO corn in the northeastern province of Liaoning, a major breadbasket region. GMO strains of corn were found in 93% of field tests and in 20 of 21 samples from grain markets and supermarkets.

The strains are illegal in China. Beijing has spent billions of dollars to develop GMO crops that it hopes will provide a steady food supply for its 1.4 billion people, but commercial cultivation of the crops has not yet been approved, and much of the population is against genetically engineered foods.

Currently, the government only permits the import of GMO grains which must be processed or used for animal feed.

There are serious concerns that Beijing will be unable to supervise the planting of GMO crops once they are able to cultivate them commercially, and that the lack of oversight will result in widespread contamination of the food chain with GMO varieties.

“It is very likely that much of the illegal GE corn has already entered grain storage warehouses, wholesale and retail markets across the country, ultimately ending up in citizens’ food,” Greenpeace said in its report.

It’s not clear how the GMO corn seeds wound up in the marketplace, but Beijing has been accused of illegally selling the test corn seeds to farmers for commercial use. This has only increased the public’s skepticism of biotechnology and GMO crops.

Some anti-GMO activists have even sued the government, alleging it failed to disclose information about its approvals for imported GMO crops and plans to allow domestic cultivation.

Three of the 6 corn strains detected in the Liaoning seed market have not been certified by China’s agriculture ministry, while the other 3 were certified as non-GMO seeds, meaning they’d be contaminated by GMO varieties. The GMO corn varieties were produced by Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont Pioneer, Greenpeace said.

DuPont Pioneer denied selling biotech seeds to China, per the law, and said it had no idea how the unauthorized seeds got into the country.

“Intellectual property right is a concern for us in any market because it’s important for assuring farmers that they are getting what they purchase and for companies to recoup our investment so we can continue investing in new technologies,” said a company spokeswoman. [1]

Monsanto and Syngenta have not made any comment regarding the findings.

Greenpeace called on the government to increase its seed inspections and “exercise extreme caution in the commercialization of any GE crops.” The group sent its findings to the Ministry of Agriculture, but has yet to hear specific comment on it.

In 2005, Greenpeace said it found GMO rice had been commercially sold and grown in China “for a number of years.” The local government initially denied the discovery, but later took action to eradicate the illegal cultivation and sales. [2]

This article originally appeared at Natural Society.


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