GM paranoia hinders China's ability to feed itself

By Cong Cao

They contend that many of the Chinese scientists who have worked on GM rice are American-educated; that they must therefore be in league with the architects of the aforementioned plot; that they must therefore be dedicated to undermining China’s national interests and security; and that they must therefore be – to quote one enraged blogger – “traitors and lackeys”.

The production of a unique crop of “false flax” camelina – one spliced with genes capable of producing omega-3 fatty acids normally found only in fish – has been hailed as a milestone in the country’s journey towards the creation of GM food.

In the eyes of its Chinese opponents – whose ranks include Major General Peng Guangqian, who also happens to be deputy secretary general of the National Security Policy Committee – GM food is not merely a cause of cancer and a source of infertility.

The expiry on August 17 of the biosafety certificates issued to strains of GM rice developed in the labs of Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, signals a major blow to the fight to establish GM food in China.

Government support for GM food is dwindling fast, and it seems safe to say that the opportunity to commercialise GM rice – and with it the chance to help address some of China’s most urgent problems – is all but gone.

Five years ago, with considerable fanfare, the process culminated in the Chinese government granting biosafety certification to GM rice – at least for research purposes.

But nowhere have the arguments against been more outrageous – or, almost incredibly, more successful – than in China, where the gainsaying has now even descended into a very public slanging match between the agriculture ministry and the army.

Read more here: Business Spectator


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