Chinese Researchers Impatient for GMO Industrialization

October 23, 2013 Updated: October 23, 2013

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture has recently funded a number of experiments on genetically modified foods: feeding GMO rice to pigs and monkeys, and hosting GMO rice-tasting events for people to see that the products are safe. At the same time, experts are urging the Chinese authorities to move quickly on the industrialization of transgenic rice, attempting to pave the road for the industry to move ahead.

A “Transgenic Rice Banquet” was hosted by Huazhong Agricultural University in central China’s Wuhan on Oct. 19, providing golden rice, a new transgenic rice product, for the delectation of attendees. Chinese agencies have hosted similar GMO rice tasting activities in 28 cities since this May, according to state-run media.

Earlier this year, 61 academicians from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering wrote a proposal to top Party leaders that: “We can’t keep on waiting to promote the industrialization of transgenic rice. If GMO industrialization doesn’t develop, trade can’t develop. And it has an extremely big impact on scientific research.”

Responding to the soaring opposition opinion to GMO from public, Zhang Qifa, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Southern Metropolis Daily: “It’s not smart to rely on public opinion to make GMO industrialization policy… If the regulations are not right, they should be revised. It’s like a football game: The judge makes the decision, not the fans.” 

Chinese Internet users wondered why Chinese experts are so keen on promoting the consumption of GMO foods. Dongcheng Shiwenzhe asked: “Why do these ‘experts’ force people to eat GMO foods? If it’s really that safe, why are so many countries around the world opposed to it? Why???”

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Zhang Qifa said in the interview: “We finally received safety certifications for two transgenic rices in 2009, after 11 years of hard work. We only need variety approval, production licenses, and business licenses for industrialization.” If certifications expire next year, they will be further from industrialization, he said.

Several successful GMO experiments by agricultural experts have been widely reported in Chinese state run media, but there is still fierce resistance among the population, according to tens of thousands of negative online comments, some of which were reviewed by Epoch Times.

One recent experiment was the feeding of miniature pigs with transgenic rice for 90 days, a task assigned to the China Agricultural University by the Ministry of Agriculture.

“During the 90 days of experiments, there was no toxicity or mortality in the pigs. Their fur was shiny and smooth, and their movements were flexible. They had a normal diet and good conditions for growth and development,” Huang Kunlun, a GMO rice expert responsible for the test told the state-run Beijing News on Oct. 21.

Another GMO experiment is being conducted on macaques, medium-sized monkeys, a project also assigned by the Ministry of Agriculture. “Macaques are primates that are very close to humans,” said Lin Yongjun, a researcher on the project, to Chinese media.

Chinese Internet users were not convinced with the apparent conclusion that because the animals have suffered no harm, that GMO foods are necessarily safe for humans. Netizen Cuichenghao posted this remark on Sina Weibo, a popular social media website: “Those professors concluded that it’s safe for human beings to eat transgenic rice because the pigs are safe after 90 days of eating transgenic rice. I laughed. Pigs eat swill for the entire lives, and they are safe to eat. Would you professors eat swill?”