According to an industry official, leaders of the American soybean industry will hold talks with government officials in China this week to clear the air over Beijing's new rules for gene-altered food, Reuters reports. The rules, announced on June 6, have been short on implementation details, and have led to a slowdown in exports of American soybeans to China. Bart Ruth, president of the American Soybean Association (ASA), and Doug Magnus chairman of the United Soybean Board will meet in Shanghai and Beijing with Chinese officials, said Gil Griffis, ASA division director for Asia. According to Griffis, there will be a small meeting in Shanghai and a larger one in Beijing. "We are going to express interest in when they [the rules] would be implemented and the specifics of the implementation procedure," he said. "We will also express our support for the early implementation of the rules in a way [that] would not impede the export of our soybeans to China," he added. The guidelines require safety certificates stating genetically modified products are not harmful to humans, animals or the environment. Imported GMO foods will also require special labelling. In July, the European Union unveiled tough rules on food derived from GMOs, requiring labelling and records tracing the origin of the crop to the farm. Consumer and environmental groups in Asia and Europe are against foods from genetically altered crops because they feel more research is needed to ensure they are safe. According to surveys by the US Department of Agriculture, approximately 70 per cent of the soybeans planted in the United States are genetically modified. China has purchased 5.8 million tons of U.S. soybeans so far in the 2000/01 marketing year ending August 31, up from 5.1 million tons in the same period last year. Exporters said Chinese demand for U.S. soybeans has been sluggish since the announcement of the GMO rules because of uncertainty over how rigidly those guidelines will be implemented. "Our exporters could have lost sales, at least temporarily. There has been a slowdown in shipments, that is my assumption," Griffis said, adding that exporters were not willing to predate their contracts to before June 6 to skirt the issue.