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The Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council of China (LAOSCC) released an opinion soliciting draft of the Grain Law on 21 Feb., 2012, aiming to invite public opinions, based on CCM International’s latest issue of Crop Protection China News.
According to the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Administration of Grain, the joint preparing units of the draft, the main purpose of drafting the law is to ensure grain security by stabilizing grain output, safeguarding grain production and strengthening control and supervision over the market.
Moreover, in the grain processing industry, the draft makes some strict stipulations, aiming to better safeguard food security. For example, grain producers are forbidden to process mildewed grains or those that have been contaminated by pesticide residue, mycotoxin or heavy metals; contaminated vehicles and packing materials are forbidden to be used to transport grain; additives shall be added accordingly.
Aiming to ensure the Grain Law to be fully executed, the draft sets up a Provincial Chief Executive Accountability System. It regulates that the Provincial People's Government Chief Executive shall take the responsibility for grain security in his/her local administrative division. "Clearly defining the responsibilities of the People's Governments at all levels and relevant departments is very important to ensure the implementation of the Grain Law," said an official from LAOSCC.
Actually, the legislation of the Grain Law has been proposed since 1999. However, owing to the complex benefit-based relationships among many related parties, which are difficult to be balanced, the Grain Law has been delayed to be drafted. As more and more worries about grain safety have been raised from the public, especially when China experienced a grain crisis in 2008, Chinese Government finally put its foot down to speed up the legislation of the Grain Law. It is also considered to be the first law that is legislated exclusively for grain in the history of the People's Republic of China.
All in all, it is a very important step that China has taken to ensure domestic grain and food security. The legislation of the Grain Law has been expected and largely supported by the public ascribed to the public's growing concern over grain and food security.
Although some of the stipulations in the draft have raised disputes among the public, many people in China still hold the attitude that "late legislation" is better than none.
Even so, there is one stipulation in the draft should be pointed out, which has confused and disappointed most of the people in China.
Nowadays, GM food safety issues are still very sensitive topics in China. So far, China has approved and granted biosafety certificates to seven GM crops, such as BT cotton and disease-resistant papaya, and approved biosafety certificates of five GM crops for import as processing materials, i.e. GM cotton, GM soybean, GM corn, GM sugar beet and GM canola. Although China has made clear statements that it has never permitted any GM crop to be commercially planted in domestic farmlands, illegally commercial planting of GM crops in China has reached a serious condition, especially GM corn and GM rice. People who are sensitive to GM security have hoped that the Grain Law will take measures to stop the commercial planting of GM crops and punish the illegally planting.
However, what disappointed them is that the statement of the stipulation in the draft is very simple and unclear. According to the 12th stipulation in the draft, any institution or individual must not apply GM technologies to principle grain cultivars without approval. Some sensitive experts expressed their worries about the stipulation that the words "must not and without approval" instead of "are forbidden" used by the government may leave a loophole. They hope that the formal Grain Law which is to be released in the future will more specifically ban the application of GM technology on main grains.
"What we are opposing is the commercial planting of GM crops which will then enter food chain. But we don't oppose the research of GM technology," said Fang Lifeng, director of the food and agricultural project of Greenpeace China.
The stipulations in the Grain Law draft will be discussed according to the opinions from the public and a final version will be nailed down in the formal Grain Law. According to LAOSCC, anyone who has opinions on the draft can login in its official website and submit opinions before 31 March, 2012. Since the draft has not been submitted for discussion on the National People's Congress (5 March-14 March, 2012) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (3 March-12 March, 2012), it would not be released in 2012.
Source: Crop Protection China News 1203
by S. C.
26 march 2012, World News > Asia