By: Ding Yimin and Xiong Lei


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China has issued new rules on access to fossils — to come into force on 1 October — that aims to crack down on looting and smuggling.

In the past, valuable fossils were protected by China's legislation on the preservation of cultural relics, which failed to specify which organisation was ultimately responsible for their care. The result was that looters and smugglers took advantage of lax law enforcement, and scientists left to work out their own arrangements with local officials.

The new regulations assign enforcement to a single administrative body. Most scientists in China agree that they are a step in the right direction. But others are concerned that the rules could cause excessive paperwork and delay field research.

Reference: Science 297, 1981 (2002)