Illegal planting and sale of genetically modified corn seeds is a persisting problem in China. The best way to deal with the problem is to legalize GMOs, Chinese scientists say.
An article in Science and Technology Daily this week notes that China's top corn seed company was recently implicated in the illegal sale of 50 kg. of genetically modified corn seed, an incident the company attributes to "internal management problems." The reporter observes that such incidents of illegal sale and planting of GMO corn seeds have appeared regularly in recent years.
Industry experts told Science and Technology Daily that the main reason for the persistence of illegal GMO corn-planting is that farmers "love" the seeds. Farmers growing conventional corn have suffered serious losses from pests, and scientists say mold from pest-damaged corn contaminates other corn when the ears are mixed together, resulting in further losses from mycotoxins. China has varieties of corn genetically altered to resist pests using genes from bacteria which can reduce pest losses, raise yields 10-30%, and increase income by about 40 yuan per mu (about $40 per acre).
According to Science and Technology Daily, farmers have found no safety problems from planting GMO corn. Some merchants will gladly violate regulations to supply GMO seeds as long as farmers are eager to get the seeds. Huang Dafang, chief scientist of a biotechnology institute, says seed companies faced with vicious competition and tiny profits are strongly tempted to deal illegally in GMO seeds.
Wang Dayuan, former head of China's National Rice Research Institute, assures readers that GMO corn is evaluated by supervisory organizations and is just as safe as conventional corn varieties. He cites a report issued by ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications) which estimates that 189.8 million hectares of land in 24 countries have been planted in GMO crops and no food safety or environmental safety harm has been verified in 21 years of planting GMO crops worldwide. China has planted GMO cotton and imported GMO soybeans for more than 20 years without problems either.
Huang Dafang says legalizing the planting of GMO corn in China would be welcomed by most farmers, seed companies, and processors. Making persistent illegal behavior legal would help China become internationally competitive, reduce use of chemical pesticides, and spur a new round of innovation in Chinese agricultural science, Huang told Science and Technology Daily.
Huang claims that Chinese scientists have intellectual property rights to insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant corn varieties they have developed.
Perhaps it's a coincidence, but Economic Observer reveals that Denghai--the seed company caught growing illegal seed--was engaged in a cooperative GMO research project with Dabeinong (aka DBN) whose executive pled guilty to stealing seeds from test plots in the United States several years ago. Investigations in the U.S. revealed that DBN employees had carried the seeds back to China disguised as boxes of popcorn.
The advocacy of GMO legalization appears to be part of a concerted campaign. The day after the Denghai company admitted its seed incident last week, another academician from China's Academy of Sciences also advocated GMO legalization at a seed industry meeting, saying, "If China waits until the entire general public accepts GMOs to commercialize them, that day will never come."