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GM Rice: A Breakthrough or Broken Point In Science? PDF Print E-mail
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China Uncensored Staff   

What will genetically modified rice lead to? Grave concerns are held due to large scale cultivation of GM rice in China.

For thousands of years savory rice has been served at Chinese dinner tables as a main staple. However, are you aware that the rice now contains strange microbic proteins, which people may have eaten for years without any knowledge of the problem?

Since 2004, cultivation of GM rice has started on a mass scale in Hubei province, promoted by the laboratory director of GM produce in the Central China Agriculture University, Zhang Qifa, also known as the Father of Chinese Transgenic Rice. Through his total power given by the communist agriculture department there are also another 3 areas in China, undergoing such planting.

This GM rice in China is also called "BT transgenic rice", named after a special gene which is is embedded into normal rice genes to produce a protein called BT, which poisons the rice-eating snout moth's larva. This special feature in the new product contributes to a massive reduction in insecticide used and consequently leads to greater yields.

Plantation of the transgenic produce saw at the incipient stage, stronger resistance against weed and insects. Then, in the following periods, the law of Nature gradually balanced itself to reverse the ecological process, with weeds and insects building up “antibodies” to adapt to their new environment. All this ends up with a sustained increase – sometimes significantly - in the amount of insecticide spread during the cultivation of the product.

A report from the British Institute of Science and the Institute of Social Science (ISIS) dated 18th January 2010 claimed the application of agricultural insecticide increased by 38.3 billion pounds due to plantation of transgenic produce from 1996 to 2008 in the United States.

Whether consumption of transgenic rice is safe still remains a controversial issue. So far, there is no country in the world that has approved planting of such rice on a commercial-scale. Neither Europe nor the U.S. has given the green light to kick-start the mass cultivation of transgenic wheat, even though wheat is a main staple in the area. Even the transgenic beans and corns that have been mass planted in the U.S. are used as stock feed or as a source of bio-fuel, in addition to exports to developing countries including China.

But the U.S. is anything but unique in the commercial- scale plantation of transgenic produce. As a matter of fact, Guangxi province in China proceeded to cultivate transgenic corns as early as 2001 on tens of thousands of Mu ( one mu is equivalent to approx 0.1647 acre). Corn, which is the second staple food after rice in Guangxi province, remains an indispensable source of food for ten million of the fifty million of Guangxi’s population.

Transgenic consequences?

According to a report on the Guangxi Online News Network: “Sexual health of male university students in Guangxi: Half Fail Sperm Test”,  sperm from 56.7% of 217 students’ in 19 Guangxi universities who volunteered for the survey were found to be abnormal in sperm quality tests.

Even though a direct causal relationship between the sperm abnormality and the consumption of transgenic food is yet to be established, it is appropriate to postulate an indirect bearing between the two.

Whereas it still remains unresolved as to whether it is safe for humans to consume GM food, there are signs of trouble at the other end of our food chain, the pig.

In September, 2010, according to a Chinese journalist who visited some villagers in Jinzhong, Yushu area of Shanxi province, a villager called Mrs. Liu said: "I had planted this type of corn in a few acres for about 3 or 4 years, I have found that the rats reduced dramatically, and especially those big rats, who eat a lot of corn; it is also strange that the rats seem a lot sillier and numb now, they just sit beside the corn and eat, not like before, they dragged the corn to their hole to eat."

Another villager who had grown pigs for over 10 years said: "One pig usually gives a minimum 10 piglets on birth, most of the time, 16 piglets; but now in these last two years, after I fed them with this type of corn, they have never given birth to more than 10 piglets. Some are not able to fall pregnant, some appeared to have a fake pregnancy, some even have miscarriages. I will sell the rest of the pigs and stop doing this as I lose money now. I invited an expert to check out the problem, but he could not explain.”

There are quite a few pig farmers in this village and all of them face a similar situation. One pig farmer said, after he sold his pigs to an abattoir, a worker from the abattoir told him one of his pig’s ovaries was full of water. Another family cut open one of their pig after it suddenly died, and found it full of water. Most villagers are experienced pig breeders, and have only had these problems since feeding pigs with GM corn.

More worryingly, in August 2009, the PRC Agriculture Ministry issued Safety Certificates for Mass Production Application of GM corn, GM insect-resistant rice “Huahui No1” and “Bt Youyou63”. This official green light will have profound implications on the agricultural front, probably pushing up the pace for developing more transgenic produce in China. The research and development of around 47 different types of genetically modified products is underway, including 7 genre of grain produce, 5 genre of produce with economic value, 4 genre of oil produce as well as 31 genre of vegetables and fruit.

Peasant caution

Some peasants who plant this special rice have been very cautious. Many retain the non-transgenic rice that they raise at home for self-consumption while selling the transgenic one on the market.

National People's Congress (NPC) representative, director of the Research Institute of Rice from Shenyang Agricultural University and academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Mr. Chen Wenfu said at a NPC session in 2010: “At the Fifth session of the 12th People’s Congress of the PRC, the Central Government gave an extravagant approval of 30 billion yuan in support of research and development of genetically modified produce. This is in contrast of a humble 0.18 billion yuan allocated for the regular ones. “

He revealed in the speech that the Chinese regime is pushing the development of GM produce. It is not known yet whether relevant government agencies and experts have formulated policies and measures to cope with any repercussions from the widespread use of GM products. This issue is of monumental significance concerning the future of China and the welfare of it's people, as attested by an ancient Chinese saying “For the common people, food is heaven”.

Thousands of "Made in China" rice products have been exported around the world. A report published on 11th April said the PRC Ministry of Commerce issued an export list of key commodities in terms of dollar value and quantity in March 2008. It showed 430,000 tons of rice was exported during the first quarter - that was a 39.4% increase on the same period last year, and a 47.4% increase in dollar value.

In addition, the Dalian Custom office uncovered a fraudulent scheme by three Chinese export companies, Huitian, Tianxi and Wanrong, where false declarations were made in order to smuggle rice. The rice, weighing 3,586 tons and loaded in 160 containers, totaled 9.8 million yuan in monetary terms. Main destinations included the U.S., Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Iran and Solomon Islands.

Click to find more information on Chinese food problems.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 October 2011 01:38


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