The Ministry of Health has announced that rules requiring safety permits for genetically modified products would take effect at the beginning of June, Associated Press reported. This appeared to contradict earlier assurances that the rules would be phased in gradually to avoid disrupting trade. Industry sources said that the ministry had previously promised to give traders until the start of 2003 before obliging them to apply for permits. A ministry spokeswoman said that guidelines would be published on how to follow the rules, but could not say when they would be available.
Four government ministries have published rules on genetically modified farm produce. China imported some 14m tonnes of soybeans in 2001, about half of its total consumption. Shipments were suspended in March but resumed in May after the agriculture ministry agreed not to enforce its own rules requiring safety inspections until December.