BEIJING - China's agriculture ministry on Tuesday said it had called for a nationwide crackdown on the production and sale of counterfeit, low-quality seeds as the government makes the seed sector a pillar of its food security push. Rice-producing regions in southern China should strictly control seed quality, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in a statement, adding that Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the provinces of Guangdong and Shandong, should focus on inspecting imported seeds. The ministry said it had issued a notice calling for a nationwide seed inspection on Monday. China's seed sector was given top priority in a major policy document released last month, as the agriculture ministry - led since December by minister Tang Renjian - steps up efforts to ensure food security for its 1.4 billion population. The fragmented seed sector in China has long suffered as weak intellectual property laws have aided the distribution of fake seeds. Farmers who used them have suffered financial losses. The ministry in early February said two seed marketing companies in the northeastern province of Liaoning had been fined after being found to have illegally produced genetically modified seeds. REUTERS
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