The approval and introduction of genetically modified crops has been delayed in China over fears by the public on whether GM food is safe, leading Chinese government officials reported last week.

The government is concerned that the public will not accept GM food because they have not been given enough information.

Bt rice and phytase corn were given safety approvals by China in 2009, but commercial production has not begun despite the fact that billions of yuan have been spent on research.

"There are some debates ... We have not given the public enough knowledge about GMO crops," Peng Yufa, a member of the GM crop biosafety committee under the Ministry of Agriculture, told Reuters reporters.

"The crops have to be accepted by consumers who are willing to buy and by farmers who are willing to grow," Peng said, adding that the process may take five years.

The public remains "very concerned" about the safety of GM crops, top agricultural official Chen Xiwen said on Thursday, but he added that it was inevitable that China would import GM crops in the future to meet the supply gap.

Ironically, China views the introduction of GM crops as crucial to feeding its population, which is a fifth of the world’s population.

Another factor influencing the adoption of GM crop cultivation in China is the government. A new government is set to be elected during the current session of parliament, but it is unknown if that government will support and push for large-scale production of GM crops.

In the meantime, China will remain the world’s largest buyer of GM soybeans and the largest grower of GM cotton.