• In China, only GM cotton and papaya are allowed to be commercially cultivated.

In China, only GM cotton and papaya are allowed to be commercially cultivated. (Photo : Getty Images)

Government officials from numerous Northeast China cities pledged to crack down on sales of genetically modified (GM) grains, strengthening their commitment to levy necessary punishments on violators, the Global Times reported.

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The news came after reports have surfaced that GM corns are being grown in the area last year. Currently, China only allows the cultivation of GM cotton and papaya.

Earlier last month, the central administration on agriculture released a documentary showing its vow to step up GM research and supervision.

According to Han Jun, chief of the office for the central leading group on agricultural work, local officials must examine and approve GM seeds before entering the market.

Jilin Province's agricultural law enforcement team has also issued a notice about GM corn seeds, pointing out that officials have "zero tolerance" for illegally produced GM seeds.

The seeds administration of Liaoning Province also published a letter addressed to farmers and seeds enterprises emphasizing that GM crops are not allowed. The letter further warned them that offenders may even face criminal charges.

For the rampancy of reports on GM crop cultivation in the area, Liaoning agricultural authorities promised to look into the case. A senior seed industry insider previously shared that "only some small companies in Northeast China dealt with illegal GM seeds which were deliberately sent to them by some transnational corporations."

The government is also focusing on boosting control in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and Gansu and Hainan Provinces--the main seed production bases in the country. Such move is seen to be crucial in preventing the spread of GM seeds nationwide.

Meanwhile, the industry insider also shared that part of China's reason of not commercializing GM seeds is the monopoly on patents held by multinational seed corporations. Should the government lift the ban on GM commercialization, these firms could charge fees.

The corporations' products include herbicide- and insect-resistant genes.

According to research, illegal trading in GM rice has been found in the provinces of Hubei and Hunan as early as 2005. Since 2010, agricultural officers have been investigating but seldom do they release results.

There were also some reports that the investigations have already been trivialized as some officials and seed firms have already formed a benefit chain in some areas.