China media: Green light to GM crops

Man inspecting water-logged GM crops Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Papers say China should not be left behind on GM crop development

Chinese newspapers back calls to popularise genetically modified crops after a top policy maker said that the domestic market should not be dominated by foreign GM brands.

"GM technology is very promising and we must stand on top of GM research as China has quite limited agricultural resources," said Han Jun, a senior Communist Party official for agriculture, according to the Global Times.

China is currently a major importer of GM produce, including soya beans, rapeseed, cotton and corn, the paper says.

Mr Han's remarks came after the government issued its first policy document of 2015 on Sunday, stressing the need to raise the competitiveness and innovation in the country's farming sector.

The official, however, acknowledged that the Chinese were still not comfortable with GM foods, so the authorities would need to work hard to popularise them.

Several newspapers including the Beijing News and the Beijing Times, support the policy, urging Chinese shoppers to "discard their prejudice" against GM foods.

However, activists from environmental group Greenpeace tell the South China Morning Post that the "public should have a bigger role in monitoring research on the new technology".

The group opposes commercial GM production because of its "potential ecological effects", the daily says.

Economic fugitive

Newspapers are also discussing the extradition of "an economic fugitive" from Italy, describing it as a sign of growing Chinese influence.

A woman known as Zhang reportedly spent 10 years on the run in Italy and has now been extradited to face trial in China, the China Daily reports. Ms Zhang allegedly used her position in a financial company to "defraud clients".

"It is thought to be the first case in which a European country has approved the extradition of a Chinese economic fugitive in accordance with their laws," China's Ministry of Public Security says.

Observers tell the Global Times that the case is a "milestone" as Western countries had been reluctant to extradite fugitives to China because they are critical of the use of the death penalty there.

Hailing the arrest as a "breakthrough", a commentary in the overseas edition of the People's Daily says the extradition reflects Beijing's growing influence in the international arena.

"Many of these fugitives have the wrong impression that they won't be persecuted once they are out of the country," says the article, warning that "the paradise is collapsing".

Nuisance calls

And finally, the press calls for tougher punishment for telephone spam after the number of reported cold calls reached an all-time high of 27 billion last year.

According to the 2014 Spam Call Annual Report released on Tuesday, most of these calls originated from Guangdong province. The report, issued by government officials and two web research firms, also says that Beijing is a major target of spam calls, according to the Beijing Times.

"Twenty-seven billion! This is a reminder that we should do something about spam calls... The number is just too shocking," says the People's Daily.

Hu Gang, an expert with the China Internet Society Research Centre, suggests the existing laws can be made tougher, including imposing a fine on cold callers.

"This kind of change to the legal system can both ensure the normal operation of telephone marketing and protect the legal rights of cell phone users," he tells China Radio International.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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