• Genetic engineering

Genetic engineering (Photo : Getty Images)

The controversy over genetically modified foods is again raising questions as a former employee of a state-run lab revealed that he was forced to modify procedures.

Wei Jingliang, a researcher, said that he was instructed to change procedures in testing and not falsify reports. He worked in one of 40 testing labs that are for GMOs.

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The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences said that he would investigate the matter.

"The academy attaches great importance to this matter. "We will actively cooperate and deal with the matter with severity if it's true," the academy said.

China's State Council is gearing up for GMO research and production. Recently, the government bought a major stake in Syngenta AG for $43 billion.

In May 2015, Wei was put in charge of the lab's record archives. This is where he found out that the records are poorly kept.

The ministry ignored his observations.

When Wei tried to resign, he was turned down. The ministry then asked him to fix documents so that they can pass an upcoming inspection by the central government.

"It would have been hard for the inspectors to detect that the documents were made up," Mr. Wei said.

The government is aggressively pushing research for GMO crops. Studies on modified crops have been one of the leading research products of the country and had earned massive profits.

"Agricultural biotechnology is one of the few technologies in which China is on an equal footing with the world's best," said Yan Jianbing, a corn genomics researcher at Huazhong Agricultural University.

But because of strong public opinion against the initiative, the government has tried not to push the agenda too far.

"Public opinion remains unfavourable for the technology, and even now, the prospect for commercialization is unclear," said Zhu Zhen, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Bureau of Life Sciences and Biotechnology.