The United States and its farmers have been feeling the ill effects of China’s rejection of their GM crops in recent weeks, with losses estimated in the billions of dollars according to reports.
Now China is taking its rejection of GMOs to yet another level, deciding to discontinue a program that had been developing its own genetically modified rice and corn.
According to a report from the website RT, environmentalists said that the public’s concerns about GM crops played a major role in the decision.
Rice, Corn Not Renewed
According to the article, rice and corn were the two GM crops being developed in China, but the Biosafety Committee had a big decision to make on August 17 as the permits for these crops came up for renewal.
The strains of GM crops were developed by the Huazhong Agricultural University with the goal of reducing pesticide use and raising yields according to a Reuters article from 2009, but the committee decided not to go ahead with the renewals (it should be noted that GM crops have actually led to massive pesticide increases so far when used).
Public safety concern was cited as the likely reason according to the article.
Genetically modified foods such as corn are very difficult if not impossible to track, and yet it is illegal to sell some of them, including genetically modified rice, in China.
Samples contaminated with GM rice have repeatedly been found in places ranging from supermarkets to farmer’s markets despite the fact that they are only allowed for research purposes currently.
Similar problems have been seen in the U.S. regarding GM rice contamination, such as in July when the medicine and agribusiness giant Bayer ended up paying $750 million to settle scores of lawsuits against it for contaminating non-GMO U.S. rice, a problem that badly hurt U.S. farmers’ bottom lines.
The article from RT also stated that China is currently doing just fine producing enough rice to feed its massive population, and currently exports very little rice. It stated that because of the current good standing for the rice industry, GM rice is not needed (or worth the risk).
Safety concerns from the public were also noted.
The decision not to continue developing new GM corn and rice could have a lasting effect on the perceptions of GMOs in China, which continue to be mostly negative.
While corn is used mostly to feed livestock, rice is a highly important crop that is a staple at many meals, and one that the general public just doesn’t seem willing to change anytime in the near future.
Related reading: Six Everyday Food Products You May Not Contain GMOs