China’s Import of Transgenic Corn Raises Health Concerns

May 24, 2010 Updated: May 25, 2010

According to the latest data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the end of April, China signed a contract to import 115,000 tons of genetically modified corn from the United States—the largest import contract for transgenic corn in the last 10 years.

The buyer is New Hope Group, a private Chinese company that proclaims itself to be the largest agricultural product supplier in China, with dozens of animal feedstuff and dairy manufacturers under its banner. The transgenic corn will be shipped to China by the end of August.

According to a Reuters report, China's largest oils and food importer and exporter, Cereals Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO), bought another six shiploads of transgenic corn from the United States. The shipment will be delivered to China sometime between July and September. Based on the fact that a typical shipload can hold 60,000 tons of corn, this equals about 360,000 tons.

Unlike the United States, where transgenic corn is used only for making industrial material, the president of New Hope, Mr. Liu Yonghao, confirmed to the Chinese Web media NetEase that the imported transgenic corn will be used to manufacture pig feed. COFCO has not disclosed how it intends to use the transgenic corn it has purchased.

Austrian scientists in 2008 proved that genetically modified corn fed to mice resulted in decreased reproductive capacity in the mice.

In Nov. 19, 2009, Guangxi News reported that a study of male sexual health undertaken at Guangxi University revealed that more than half of the male student population have abnormal sperm. It is believed that this could be tied to the widely planted transgenic corn in Guangxi Province, as over 10 million people in Guangxi consume corn as the primary staple food in their diet.

As a result of these findings, there is concern over the possibility that the imported transgenic corn will find its way into the domestic food market in China.

In 2006–2007, European officials discovered that processed food imported from China was found to contain an unauthorized variety of genetically modified (GM) rice, which triggered a wave of scrutiny to China's control over its food industry.

Read the original article in Chinese.