Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pro-GMO Propaganda Campaign

China's Ministry of Agriculture is laying down a propaganda barrage to convince the public that genetically modified foods are safe. Chinese news media have run a number of articles featuring various scientists explaining that GM foods do not pose a health threat. One article reported that a group of small pigs showed no ill effects after being fed GM rice for 90 days in an experiment at China Agriculture University. The Central China Agricultural University Professor overseeing the rice research says he has eaten GM rice for 14 years with no effects. A number of articles explain the science of genetic modification and assures consumers that China has laws and requirements for certificates and licenses that carefully control the import and production of genetically modified crops. In an interview with Peoples Daily Professor Luo Yunbo, Dean of the China Ag University's Food Science and Engineering College, repeated the official line that genetic modification is itself a neutral technology that must be used scientifically and strictly regulated.
This photo's caption said there is no apparent difference between 
conventional rice and genetically modified rice from experimental plots.

This campaign coincides with a push to develop the Chinese seed industry. In an article describing Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu's instructions for implementing the State Council's priorities for economic work the only specific topic mentioned was an initiative to speed up seed industry research and innovation. (The dimsums blog reported on seed industry initiatives several months ago.)

The propaganda campaign seems aimed at laying the groundwork for commercial approval of GM crops for production in China as a food security strategy. Agricultural research on GM crops has been underway in Chinese institutes since the 1990s. Chinese farmers besieged by pests and weeds are eager to adopt GM crops. In May, Heilongjiang Provincial quarantine authorities said they seized and destroyed 115 kg of genetically modified corn seed sent from the United States.

In contrast, the Chinese public has grown increasingly skeptical of GM foods. With increasing numbers of Chinese consumers presuming that GM foods are a health threat until proven otherwise--a standard that is essentially impossible to meet--it seems likely that agriculture authorities will breed more cynicism with their campaign.

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