Former TV star criticises China’s secrecy over GM crops

TV personality and political delegate Cui Yongyuan is pressing China's agricultural ministry to publish details about illegal GM cultivation

The Chinese agricultural ministry has been criticised for its secretive approach to information about genetically modified organisms (GMO) on the first day of China’s ‘Lianghui’, the annual meetings of China’s top legislature.

“The (agricultural) authorities tell us consumers whatever they want us to know and hide whatever information they do not want us to know,” said Cui Yongyuan, a former host of a popular CCTV talk show and delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

He claimed that GMOs have been illegally cultivated in at least 25 provinces across China, adding that he would publish a report on the issue by the end of this year. He told Beijing News that Hunan, Hubei, Guangxi and Jilin were among the provinces most affected by illegal GM planting and suggested that “some people should be held responsible for this matter.”

“I have discussed the issue of illegal planting practices with the press many times before,” the outspoken talk show host said. “Now I want an answer from the agriculture ministry on whether these illegal planting practices exist.”

Cui said he would submit a motion on the regulation of GMOs to the ‘Lianghui’.

Wang Mengshu, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and representative of China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress, threw his weight behind Cui’s appeal, also submitting a motion urging that “China stop importing GM crops or GMO varieties” until consensus had been reached on their safety.

GM crops have long been a focus of controversy in China. The agricultural ministry’s decision last June to import three new varieties of GM soybean triggered a public outcry. In October, leading researcher Zhang Qifa’s assertion that public opposition should not constrain commercialisation of GM rice also stirred debate on safety and regulation of the food sector.