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  • Updated: 7:30am
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FOOD

China must switch to growing GM food before it's too late: scientist

Agricultural expert warns of crisis if country does not start growing modified crops and continues to rely on foreign imports

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 4:36am
 

A leading agricultural scientist's unusually frank endorsement of growing genetically modified food has reignited a debate over whether the country should reconsider its long-time distaste for the controversial food source.

Professor Wu Kongming, a member of the influential Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the country risked increasing grain shortages and a dangerous dependence on foreign food imports if it continued to shun GM food.

"The conflict between food demand and supply in our country does not allow us to put aside the development of GM technology any longer," Wu, who is also vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told China National Radio.

"China's situation has determined that we cannot follow the countries with very rich land resources to use traditional methods to satisfy our demand," he said.

"Our way out is to use modern technology to support the development of our agriculture."

China imports about 80 million tonnes of grains, such as soya beans, rice and wheat, each year, some of it genetically modified. To produce that amount of food domestically, the country would need 53 million more hectares of farmland, 44 per cent more than there was now, Wu said.

The imports had not only reduced food security but also strained global food supply, he said, adding that the country was running out of time to switch to GM food production.

Genetic modification, which is banned for staple grains such as rice and wheat on the mainland, could help crops better weather droughts, pests and diseases, as well as help farmers achieve higher yields, Wu said.

"As the imbalance gets worse, we may have to give up cotton and oil production to ensure a stable grain supply," he said. "To China, that is a dangerous signal."

Wu's remarks make him one of the few agricultural scientists to speak up for GM food on the mainland, where opposition to the products is deep-rooted and widespread.

Many mainlanders share the concerns of people elsewhere that using GM crops could cause unforeseen damage to the environment, such as introducing engineered genes into the wild.

Others fear eating such food could endanger health, although the World Health Organisation describes the risk of allergic reactions or transfers of antibiotic resistance as low.

Some hardline communists also argue that GM crops - often produced by large Western multinational companies - could provide a back door for an attack on the country's food supply.

A GM-rice researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology said most of the mainland's scientific community agreed with Wu, but few dared to speak up.

"If I openly defended the technology, my mobile phone would probably ring from dawn to dusk tomorrow with hate calls. That has happened to a colleague of mine," said the researcher, who declined to be named.

"In this country, public fear over GM food is bigger than the fear of atomic bombs."

Online, Wu's remarks drew mostly negative comments.

"The scientists can't prove GM food is safe unless they eat it every day," an internet user from Hefei , Anhui , wrote on Sohu.com's discussion board.

Yu Jiangli , of Greenpeace China's food and agriculture team, said people feared the inherent uncertainty of the technology.

"GM food may solve the food shortage in the short term, but in the long term it could bring other issues," she said.

"In China, there are many alternatives to improving food productivity, such as improving field management and reducing consumer waste, which are safer and more sustainable."

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Camarelli
This has nothing to do with Monsanto, this anti-corporations freaks must stop evoking their boogeyman in order to try to ban biotechnology. Opposition to GMOs is based on irrational fear, superstition and technophobia.
There is enough scientific consensus on the safety and potentialities of the GMOs already consumed in the world for 20 years.
China can develop their own transgenics, they should and can do it if they see problem with forein corporations, although that's rather stupid as they will be dependent on them if they don't modernize their agriculture.
Brit_in_China
In my personal opinion, what we are talking about here is pressure being brought by the likes of Monsteranto on the Beijing Government to give in to their lobbying. Round-Up ready soya is a plague. Round-Up is a poison and has been banned in many countries including France. Monsteranto lies about Round-Up's biodegradability and it was banned because of their lies. India was promised huge benefits from Monsteranto's BT cotton; in the end it was a social disaster. Watch the following movies and then make up your own mind: Food Inc and The World According to Monsanto.
I live and work in China. I beg you Beijing, if you read such comments; please do not give in to pressure from these evil corporations. Find another solution or become yet another slave to Monsteranto.
Camarelli
You're using the common Argumentum ad Monsantium fallacy (google it). Unfortunately your misinformation was adquired on the Youtube University for Lazy People. Anti-GMO campaigners spread a lot of lies, distortions and discredited scientific studies.
India story is a sucess, despites the lies of the mystic ****ter Vandana Shiva.
Dao-Phooy
I hope China continues to block Monsanto - just look at the terrible situation the US farmers are in.
Camarelli
What terrible situation? What are you talking about? Look at the terrible situation of the european farmers, loosing competitivity for the US farmers. Europe is becoming more and more dependent on food suply because of their highly restrictive policy on GMOs, result of the strong lobby propaganda funded by the huge Organic business, wich survives on urban fantasies about Nature and agriculture. 1st world, middle class mentality, is what fuels the organic sector, they can afford to buy their expensive fetiches but they shouldn't impose that to the rest of the world population that could benefit from the newest biotechnologic advances. European policy is hypocrite because they still import GMO food from the US and other biotechnologic countries (they have to).
Only two GMOs varieties have been authorized here and they're mostly farmed in Spain and Portugal, where farmers are fastly adoption them as they realize their advantages (pest-resistance, no-till, less pesticide use, higher profit).
 
 
 
 
 

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