News / Asia

Chinese State Media Kick Aim to Ease GMO Food Fears

FILE - South Korean civic group members perform during rally against imported genetically modified organism (GMO) corn from China, Ulsan, South Korea, May 1, 2008.
FILE - South Korean civic group members perform during rally against imported genetically modified organism (GMO) corn from China, Ulsan, South Korea, May 1, 2008.
Reuters
China's state media are working overtime to persuade the public that genetically modified food is safe, apparently softening up the population for a policy switch to allow the sale of such food to ensure its 1.35 billion people have enough to eat.
 
In the past 30 years, China's urban population has jumped to about 700 million from under 200 million, driving up demand for meat and staples such as rice that scientists say only GMO can satisfy.
 
Imported GMO soybeans are already used as feed for animals but winning acceptance for the more widespread use of GMO may be a hard sell in a country frequently in the grip of food scares — just this year over baby milk powder and chemicals in chickens, for instance.
 
GMO food faces opposition even at the top levels of Chinese bureaucracy, with a senior national security official likening it to opium.
 
But state media is taking up the fight: on Monday, Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily rejected rumors that eating GMO food could alter human DNA, and news agency Xinhua ran an investigation last week debunking tales that GMO corn consumption had reduced sperm counts.
 
Zhang Qifa, known as China's “father of GMO rice,” recently criticized the Ministry of Agriculture for refusing to approve strains that have cost billions of yuan in research over the past decade.
 
Beijing granted safety certificates for its first genetically modified rice in 2009 but has so far refused to authorize commercial production until the public is onside.
 
The certificate for Zhang's pest-resistant “Bt” rice will expire next year, meaning researchers have to reapply, a process that could take years.
 
“Right now, China's GMO rice production has ground to a halt ... I personally think we have missed opportunities to develop,” Zhang said, adding that GMO commercialization wasn't a matter for the public and should begin without delay.
 
Huang Dafang, a researcher with the Biotechnology Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, was unimpressed with the media campaign.

“We have not seen any signs of progress, only the continuation of the debate,” he said.
 
Scientists have been at pains to show that GMO is already part of the food chain: China is the world's top importer of GMO soybeans, used as feed, and also imports GMO corn from the United States and elsewhere.
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecast China's rice imports would reach a record high of 3.4 million tons in 2013/14 and researchers say China is facing a growing food gap that can only be properly addressed through the use of GMO.
 
But while policymakers have expressed optimism about GMO crops and scientists have long urged the government to allow new strains of GMO rice, Beijing will not move until it is sure the risks are minimal and that, crucially, the public is behind it.
 
New kind of opium
 
The debate hasn't been entirely one-way, with influential researchers still urging caution, especially when it comes to staples like rice and wheat.
 
“Many have said there are no risks to GMO food but the risks may not even be discovered in three or five years but actually over three to five generations,” said Jiang Changyun, research director at the Industrial Development Research Institute, who wants the government to improve food labeling so that people can decide themselves whether to eat GMO or not.
 
The debate has moved into the realms of national security, with Peng Guangqian, deputy secretary-general of the National Security Policy Committee, likening GMO food in August to a new kind of opium being forced upon China by Western companies.
 
Writing in Global Times, a tabloid backed by the People's Daily, Peng said companies such as Monsanto and Dupont were dumping GMO products on China.
 
Wang Xiaoyu, an official at the Heilongjiang Soybean Association, said GMO soy oil consumed in southern parts of the country was linked to high cancer rates.
 
However, another worry, he conceded, was that imports of cheap GMO soy had led to a fall in local production, since many planters were unable to compete.
 
Huang of the Biotechnology Research Institute complained that the scientific debate had been hijacked.
 
“GMO is a scientific matter and should not be debated at the social level. If China's Three Gorges dam and nuclear power were decided by public debate, neither would have been established,” he said.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More