August 2014: China pulls plug on genetically modified rice and corn

July 2014: Mexican judge bans planting of GMO soy

May 2014: GMO-related activities to be considered as terrorist acts in Russia




China pulls plug on genetically modified rice and corn

By Dennis NormileNews from Science, 20 August 2014

Tine Steiss/Wikimedia -  Rice terraces in China

Tine Steiss/Wikimedia –
Rice terraces in China


China’s Ministry of Agriculture has decided not to renew biosafety certificates that allowed research groups to grow genetically modified (GM) rice and corn. The permits, to grow two varieties of GM rice and one transgenic corn strain, expired on 17 August. The reasoning behind the move is not clear, and it has raised questions about the future of related research in China.

The ministry, with much fanfare, had approved the GM rice certificates in August 2009. The permits enabled a group at Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan to produce two varieties of rice carrying a gene from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria that provides pest resistance. At the same time, the ministry approved production of a corn strain developed by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences’ Biotechnology Research Institute in Beijing. Researchers had altered the corn so that kernels contain phytase, a livestock feed additive that boosts absorption of phosphorus, which enhances growth. All of the certificates were valid for 5 years.

Since the certificates were issued, however, public skepticism about the benefits of GM crops has grown in China. Some scientists conducting GM plant research have been attacked when giving public lectures.

Why the ministry allowed the certificates to lapse is in dispute. Some environmentalists say public worries about GM crops played a decisive role. “We believe that loopholes in assessing and monitoring [GM] research, as well as the public concern around safety issues are the most important reasons that the certifications have not been renewed,” writes Wang Jing, a Greenpeace official based in Beijing, in an e-mail to ScienceInsider.

Others believe agricultural economics also influenced the decision. China has nearly reached self-sufficiency in producing rice using conventional varieties, so the ministry has decided there is no need to commercialize Bt rice in the near future, says Huang Jikun, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy. He says that with commercialization off the table, there was no point in renewing the certifications. Huang says “rising public concerns [about the] safety of GM rice” likely also played a role.

Whatever the reason, the decision marks an abrupt change in fortunes for transgenic rice in China. Five years ago, “China was widely expected to soon put GM rice on the country’s dining tables,” wrote Cao Cong, a China policy expert at University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, in a post on The Conversation, an Australian website. The Bt rice project “is now to all intents and purposes dead and buried,” he wrote, blaming an “anti-GM movement whose power and influence are more than matched by its fervour and sheer, undiluted paranoia.”

Huang says this decision does not reflect a change in China’s overall policy regarding agricultural biotechnology. The government is increasing its support for Bt corn research, other specialists note; GM corn has faced less public opposition, in part because it is primarily fed to livestock.

The researchers behind the affected GM crops could not be reached for comment.




Monsanto in Mexico | Court rules against the Gene Giant in Yucatán

Mexican judge bans planting of GMO soy

by Devon G. Peña – Environmental and Food Justice, 24 July 2014

Map of transgenic crops in Mexico. Source: FAO

Map of transgenic crops in Mexico. Source: FAO



According to reports appearing in the Mexican print media, a federal district court judge in Yucatán yesterday overturned a permit issued to Monsanto, the U.S.-based multinational corporation that is a leading purveyor of genetically modified crops (GMOs). The permit, which had been issued by the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food on June 6, 2012, allowed the commercial planting of GM soy bean in Yucatán. The ruling was based on consideration of scientific evidence demonstrating (to the judge’s satisfaction) that GMO soy crop plantings threaten Mexican honey production in the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán.

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GMO-related activities to be considered as terrorist acts in Russia

The Voice of Russia, 15 May 2014

© Photo: The Voice Of Russia/Zuhal Sarhad Read more:

© Photo: The Voice Of Russia/Zuhal Sarhad


Russian lawmakers want to equate GMO-related activities that may harm human health or even cause death to terrorist acts and impose criminal liability on producers, sellers and transporters of genetically modified organisms, the newspaper Izvestia writes in its Thursday issue.

A bill to this effect was submitted to the Russian State Duma lower parliament house by the Duma agrarian committee and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) faction, who claimed that the government’s bill referred to parliament was too mild.

The bill’s initiators say liability for GMO-inflicted harm should be expanded to state and local self-government officials. Under the bill, criminal responsibility should be applicable to companies and government officials only, while individuals should be subject to disciplinary liability.

The bill also provides for fines for concealing or deliberate distortion of information about environmental impacts of GMOs.

Thus, individuals will be punished by a fine ranging from 500 to 1,000 roubles (14.5-29 US dollars), government officials – by a fine of 1,000-2,000 roubles, and legal entities – by a fine of 10,000-20,000 roubels.

Kirill Cherkasov, the first deputy chairman of the State Duma agrarian committee, said that tough regulation should be imposed in the area of gene engineering, since imports of GMO-containing products had increased dramatically after Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He said that the State Duma would issue a package of amendments to the national laws regulating technical and economic aspects of GMO-related activities by its autumn session.

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