Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How China Grows Non-GMO Wheat

China is afraid of genetically modified crops because they might possibly somehow harm consumers someday. Vice Minister of Agriculture Niu Dun brags that China's restrictions on GMO-labeling are more strict than in other countries. Unlike other countries that permit 1%, 5%, or 10% GM-content without labeling, China requires foods to be labeled if there is any GM content whatsoever, even .00001%. Chinese people must be notified if they are eating a single modified gene because it might be dangerous. Last month, Vice Minister Niu snuck in a jab in a news media interview, complaining that the United States had not given China enough information about a mysterious field of genetically modified wheat found in Oregon.

All of China's wheat is non-GMO, so it's safe and environmentally benign, right? Let's look at how China grows its non-GMO wheat.

Since 2012, China's main strategy for boosting wheat production has been to mobilize armies of farmers, tractors, airplanes and drones to drench wheat fields with a cocktail of chemicals. Farmers Daily said the central government budgeted 1.7 billion yuan ($275 million) in 2013 to subsidize a "one spray, three protections" program that distributes subsidized pesticides, fungicides, growth promoting chemicals, liquid fertilizer and micronutrients to all wheat-growing areas. These chemicals are mixed together in tanks and sprayed on wheat fields.

The standard level of subsidy was 5 yuan per mu. Last year the spray covered 340 million mu (56 million acres) with the chemical cocktail. The pesticides protect wheat from pests like aphids; fungicides prevent diseases like leaf rust and powdery mildew; growth-promotants and fertilizer help the heads of wheat fill with more kernels and prevent them from losing moisture and getting blown over. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the spray raised the average national yield by 3.5%.

Common chemicals include a systemic fungicide called thiophanate-methyl (TM) and cypermethrin. a fast-acting neurotoxin in insects.

According to the U.S. EPA's reregistration eligibility decision for thiophate-methyl,
"TM is a systemic fungicide used on a variety of tree, vine, and root crops, as well as on canola and wheat. TM is of low acute toxicity, but causes liver and thyroid effects in animal studies and has been classified as a probable human carcinogen. Its metabolate, MBC, has also been shown to cause adverse testicular effects. However, dietary exposure to TM residues in food and water is extremely low as is the cancer risk posed to the general population. Of greater concern is the risk posed to pesticide workers, particularly mixers/loaders/applicators, and field workers who come into contact with treated foliage/crops/lawns/turf/etc."
Consumers will find no label on flour or bread warning them that it might contain traces of these chemicals.

Rich districts spray the countryside with pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals from helicopters and drones. According to the National Pesticides Telecommunications Network (NPTN), cypermethrin is highly toxic to fish, bees and aquatic insects.

drone spraying in Beijing

Pesticides delivered by well-fed official in his black car.
Company officials deliver "one spray, three protection" subsidized chemicals to spray on wheat...and took the subsidies back to the company.
 Official issues orders to spray via megaphone.
Look what was under the Christmas tree!

So, this is China's "scientific outlook on development." They obsess over unproven risks. Instead, they subsidize other activities that have scientifically-established risks--spraying the countryside with carcinogenic, bee-killing chemical cocktails.

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