• A farmer walks past a pile of corn at a state grain reserves depot on Dec. 19, 2008, in Yushu in Jilin Province, China.

A farmer walks past a pile of corn at a state grain reserves depot on Dec. 19, 2008, in Yushu in Jilin Province, China. (Photo : Getty Images)

China's agricultural ministry announced Thursday that it will advise Chinese legislators to formulate a law on genetically modified (GM) food safety at a later date, adding that GM food found in the Chinese market is as safe as non-GM food.

Regulations issued by the State Council in 2001 and the revised Food Safety Law of 2015 already provide a legal basis for GM food production and management, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) said on its website.

Like Us on Facebook

The ministry stressed that GM food safety standards in China are scientific and strict, so GM products produced under the national system of safety evaluation and supervision are as safe to eat as traditional non-GM products.

However, some experts questioned the MOA's position over existing regulations and laws related to GM products.

Xia Youfu, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics and an expert on trade in GM products, told the Global Times that while the MOA is responsible for overseeing GM food safety, it should not act as a "referee" and "player" at the same time.

"The MOA, which has a duty to study and popularize GM agricultural products, has cooperated with many giant GM food producers such as Monsanto. How can it also play a role in law enforcement on GM food safety?" he said.

Xia added that China must instead formulate a law authorizing other government agencies to supervise food safety.

Lu Baorong, a biology professor at Fudan University, said the current regulations and laws are not clear as how food products can be classified as genetically modified.

Although China's current laws on GM labelling stipulate that all products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should be labelled as such, many products that mix GMOs to one degree or another may not follow the regulation, according to the Global Times.

If a GMO content threshold is set, below which GM foods will not be labeled, the rules will be observed more strictly, Lu said.

The safety of GM foods has been a hot topic in China since 2013, when Cui Yongyuan, a former state TV host and outspoken GM food opponent, had an online spat with Fang Zhouzi, a science writer and advocate of GM food.

The Legal Weekly reported in September 2014 that 71 lawyers in China have filed lawsuits over poor GMO labelling of cooking oil.