Anti-GMO ‘paranoia’ hindering China’s progress towards food security

NASA astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly

One of China’s major genetically modified food projects is now to all intents and purposes dead and buried. 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.

For China, it didn’t have to be this way. For more than two decades, with government support, Chinese scientists have been frontrunners in researching and developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The country has become a global leader in agro-biotechnology, driven by the inescapable need to feed a population of 1.3 billion and by a concomitant determination to increase yields, improve nutrition, ensure food security and tackle the problems caused by pests, diseases and pollution.

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. It is also a grand Western scheme. It is a monumental, supremely devious plot to annihilate the Chinese and other people of colour.

It might be ludicrous, but it is effective. Irrational pronouncements have been deemed to carry more weight than empirical evidence. Anti-Western sentiment has been judged more convincing than a raft of studies endorsing the merits of agro-biotechnology. 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. You do not have to be a scientist to see that reason has suffered a crushing defeat.

Read the full, original article: China’s fight to feed itself is hindered by anti-GM paranoia

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