Nation poised to import more GMO products
Updated: 2013-08-08 06:38
By Zhong Nan (China Daily)
In 2012, China imported 31 tons of GMO corn for research purposes and more than 58 million tons of soybeans, mostly genetically modified, from the global market, a practice that it has been carrying on for years, according to the Center of China Agriculture for Trade and Economy at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Boosted by the booming animal feed and bio-chemical sectors, the demand for corn has surged in the past decade. More than 70 percent of the country's annual corn production was used by these two industries.
Last year, more than 120 million tons of corn was used by the livestock industry, while biochemical product producers used 61 million tons of the grain, up 9 percent year-on-year, said the China National Grain and Oils Information Center.
Not all of the processed corn is sold domestically. China produced 190 million tons of animal feed for export last year, up 5.5 percent year-on-year. The feed was sold to a number of countries, including Mongolia, Ukraine, Australia and New Zealand.
Under such circumstances, Zhang Yuxin, a professor at the Chinese Agricultural University in Beijing, said the import of GMO corn can help the government feel more comfortable and eventually modify its policies to allow farmers to grow GMO grain crops in the future.
"China has already adopted GMO cotton technology and the effect on health and yield has been substantial. GMO crops can increase yields, especially in developing nations. China, to a certain extent, can benefit from the adoption of this technology," said Zhang.
For decades, China's agricultural sector has embraced non-GMO technologies to ensure its grain output and security, because the government considers that this can prevent adverse social and economic consequences, which GMO crops might bring, including their potential impact on biodiversity.
"China's reluctance to adopt GMO or bio-technology in corn is largely because it wants to be independent of other nations in terms of food technology and security," Zhang said.
Zhang said he believes more Asian countries with low GDP growth will choose GMO technology or will allow the import of GMO agricultural products from countries such as the US, Argentina and Brazil to secure their food supply after seeing China's move.
According to a World Health Organization released in 2012, GMO foods have passed risk assessment tests and are not likely to pose risks for human health. In addition, the general public in the countries where those foods have been approved has shows no effects on its health as a result of eating such foods.