China's new agreement to impact global GM crop trade

Press release - 2005-05-19
China's announcement today that it would ratify the Cartegena Biosafety Protocol [i] is likely to have long-term impacts on global agricultural trade, Greenpeace said today.

Greenpeace activists today occupy the cranes of the "Winner" to prevent its cargo of GMO soya from Argentina, reaching Spain. In the foreground Hungarian activist Atilla Soos.

China is now one of the world's largest importers of GM crops. Once China's ratification enters into force, [ii] international traders will have to inform and secure approval from Chinese authorities before exporting GM crops to China. "China is sending a strong message to the world that it is no dumping ground of GM crops. China's ratification will add immense weight to the protocol as it is one of the largest importers of GM crops as well as a major producing country," Greenpeace Campaigner Sze Pang Cheung said.

China is the fourth largest producer of GM crops, after the US, Argentina and Canada. China imported almost 20 million tons of soybean in 2003/04, and Chinese experts speculate that more than 70% of the imported soybean are GM. Countries like USA and Argentina which are exporting GM soybean to China would have to meet the requirements specified in the Biosafety Protocol, even though they are not parties to the international agreement.

Greenpeace has warned that huge imports of GM soybean pose a threat to China's biodiversity of soybean. Sze said: "We have witnessed Mexican maize contaminated by imported GM maize from the USA, and we need to make sure the same does not happen to the soybean in China, which is the center of origin and biodiversity of soybean."

China announced ratification of the Biosafety Protocol today in a press conference held by the State Environmental Protection Administration. The international agreement now has 119 parties, and the second meeting of the parties will be held in 30 May-3 June in Montreal, Canada.

China's capacity to regulate GM crops was cast in doubt recently after illegal GM rice was found to be sold and planted without official approval. If illegal GM rice contaminates rice export from China, it would be a violation of the Biosafety Protocol. Greenpeace urges Chinese government to recall and destroy all illegal GM rice, and to review its biosafety regulation to prevent similar contamination from happening.

Other contacts:

SZE Pang Cheung, Campaigner, Greenpeace China, +86 10 6554 6931 ext. 110

May ZHOU, Media Officer, Greenpeace China, +86 10 6554 6931 ext. 105


[i] The first legally binding international agreement governing the transboundary movement of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
[ii] China’s ratification will be effective 90 days after the Secretary-General of the United Nations UN receives its ratification instrument.