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CHINA: CONCERNS AND CHALLENGES OF GM FOOD

Genetically modified food has been recently under the spotlight as one of the most challenging issue of the Chinese political agenda, raising strong debates about food security related issues.

The possibility to grow genetically modified rice and corn has raised many doubts and questions. According to experts, this modified food thanks to their characteristics can lead to energy savings and more efficient land use. However, these projects had attracted particular attention for the potential risks they could entail.

Establishing strategies to guarantee people enough food on the table is a political priority in most countries. This issue is particularly important in China, with one-fifth of the world’s population and only 8% of its arable land.

Agricultural biotechnology has been played a central role as a significant government priority for many years. Additionally, in recent times China has recorded a significant increase in the production, sale and consumption of meat; in this context, some food represents a key innovation in order to increase the efficiency,  reducing the environmental costs of this expansion.

On the other hand, the existent Chinese anti-GM movement reflects the emergence of a large public debate.

In this framework, scientists have played an important role stressing the urgency for the government to undertake adequate measures: last year, a petition to the country’s leaders, highlighted the importance to improve the promotion of industrialized cultivation of GM rice, in order to safeguard and protect the national interest.

Moreover, some experts have highlighted that an adequate and clever use of genetic modification will help protect the environmental safety.

However, the public debate regarded to the GM food in China needs to take into account many deeper issues as public concerns around regulation and risks of food safety - problems that China has been facing  in recent years.

As researchers have outlined, the complexity of the situation entails other concerns with implications not only for food safety, but leading also to other effects, such as the widespread overuse of chemical pesticides, soil erosion, fragmentation of rural communities, rising social inequality.

In that way, experts say that focusing exclusively on one vision of high-tech innovation could undermine avenues for engagement on scientific and environmental decision-making, underestimating emergent innovations that could address Chinese agricultural and environmental challenges.

 

The gLAWcal Team

EPSEI project

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

(Source: ChinaDialogue)