ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
 
Date:  5 December 2000

CHINA  JOINS  DEBATE  OVER  GM  FOODS

Intriguingly, although China is constantly promoted to us as an example of a country successfully forging ahead with GM crops without any qualms or consumer concern, this report follows on from earlier reports of Chinese import checks for GM contamination, and confirms intentions to label GM foods and clearly indicates - yes, wait for it! - consumer concerns.

Quotes:

"According to Pan Yingjie, president of the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences, transgenic food is not currently being sold on the local market. He said the government would establish labeling procedures before GM products are made available to consumers. "China will definitely follow the procedure of labeling when we finally allow transgenic foods in the marketplace" "

"Judging from the reactions of shoppers at a local market, Chinese consumers may have the last word after all."

The right to know what you and your family are eating/purchasing would therefore appear to be receiving considerably greater priority in China than N America where the rights of corporations appear to hold greater sway.

It's also interesting to note that while the reason for the Chinese government's interest in GM crops is supposed to be feeding its large population, the reason given here is quite different:

"As China prepares to enter the World Trade Organization, the government has come under increasing pressure to boost agricultural output and cut costs."

Judging by objective data on the N American experience, Chinese farmers will be more than lucky if either happens -- more likely the reverse! (see http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/farming.htm)
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http://www.gm1.com/?action=display&article=4690105&template=gmfood/indexsearch.txt&index=recentChina
China joins debate over genetically modified foods - UPI, 3 Dec 2000 [shortened]

Holding up a kiwi the size of a baseball, He Yiqing, a 56-year-old self-employed greengrocer, said fruit on the shelves of the city's countless outdoor markets over the past year has been so large that many shoppers wonder if it is real. He said strawberry and kiwi fruit are examples, both of which have appeared two to three times larger than in previous years. Even more troubling to his
customers, the fruit is often irregularly shaped, adding to suspicions that it has been genetically enhanced or modified.

"Last season's strawberries were largest I've seen them ever," he said, "There are concerns that the food has been genetically altered and there's been a lot of talk about fruit coming into the city from other provinces. So people worry that something might have been done to it."

His concerns might not be without justification. As the controversy over genetically modified foods rages on in many Western countries, Chinese scientists are moving ahead with plans to develop and introduce transgenic foods to the domestic market within the next couple years.

Unlike the United States and Europe - where opponents have staged mass protests and destroyed GM crops - dissent is not likely in China. Debate over the subject is censored in the state media, leaving many consumers to wonder if genetically modified food may have already entered the marketplace.

According to Pan Yingjie, president of the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences, transgenic food is not currently being sold on the local market.  He said the government would establish
labeling procedures before GM products are made available to consumers.

"China will definitely follow the procedure of labeling when we finally allow transgenic foods in the marketplace," Pan said. "The rules will give citizens the right to choose and give them a greater variety of choices to make."

Pan said Chinese researchers have succeeded in developing a number of genetically enhanced vegetables, such as tomatoes and straw mushrooms, which have resulted in stronger strains. He said it could only be a matter of time before the government approves them for mass consumption.

"Presumably, domestic consumers will be purchasing genetically modified foods in the next three to five years," he said. "We are growing many kinds of vegetables experimentally and have met with great results. So we are moving forward from the research to the development phase."

As China prepares to enter the World Trade Organization, the government has come under increasing pressure to boost agricultural output and cut costs...  But convincing the public that they will benefit from GM foods may be harder to sell for government officials.

Judging from the reactions of shoppers at a local market, Chinese consumers may have the
last word after all. "It's not right to change natural order of things," said Liu, a 41-year-old mother of two, as she picked through a pile of tomatoes. "People don't want fake vegetables."
 
 
 

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