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China has long been a keen supporter of transgenic agriculture, and is still pouring money into developing the technology. But, despite its significant investment in the area, the Chinese government has not approved any new genetically modified (GM) food crop for commercial use since 2000.

In this article, Colin Macilwain investigates this seemingly contradictory policy on transgenic crops. Chinese researchers cite 'public concerns' about biosafety, as well as doubts that export markets in Europe and elsewhere would accept GM food.

But circumstances suggest an alternative explanation: that the Chinese government is exploiting the biosafety issue to frustrate the commercial ambitions of Western agribiotech firms, because it realises that its own research programme needs more time to catch up.

Link to Nature feature article

Reference: Nature 422, 111 (2003)

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