Rules and Regulations

Right from the beginning of the work with transgenic plants the Chinese government was interested in establishing rules and a regulatory framework, including forest trees because of their potential influence on the environment and human health. General aspects of biosafety research in China concerning GMOs were reported in a review article by Jia and Peng (2002). In accordance with international regulations there are different steps in the development towards the establishment and the use of GMO trees: laboratory work, field tests, environmental release and finally the approval for commercial use. The "Biosafety administration regulation on genetic engineering" was already published and confirmed in December 1993 by the Chinese State Science and Technology Commission (SSTC; Huang and Wang 2002). In July 1996 the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has put the "Biosafety administration implementation regulation on agricultural biological genetical engineering" into practice. The release of transgenic poplar plants to six sites (approximately 300 ha) in 1997 and 1999 was a consequence of the decision to permit the release of transgenic trees by the Bio-Engineering Committee of the Chinese Agricultural Ministry.

In May 2001 the State Department of China legislated the "Safety administration regulation on agricultural gene modified organism". These regulations fixed guidelines for agricultural transgenic products. As matching measures in March 2002 the "Biosafety evaluation and administration measures on agricultural genetically modified organism", "Biosafety administration measures on import of agricultural genetically modified organism" and "Administration measures on marking of agricultural genetically modified organism" passed the Ministry of Agriculture. The policy measures related to biotechnology, especially in agriculture, had already been presented in more detail by other authors (Huang and Wang 2002; Marchant et al. 2002). The approval of transgenic poplar clones for the first commercial use in 2002 was the final step in the evaluation process for the plant material described above. Nevertheless, a broad variety of experimental designs concerning biosafety and risk assessment research will be carried out additionally in the future to study the ongoing influence of transgenic trees on the environment over longer time periods (Lu et al. 1999).

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