The Lancet - Biotech quick-fixes will not end hunger in China (24/5/2005)

1.Biotech quick-fixes will not end hunger in China
2.China Says Ratifies GMO Transparency Treaty

Excerpt: "China is sending a strong message to the world that it is no dumping ground for GM crops." (item 2)

1.Biotech quick-fixes will not end hunger in China
The Lancet 365 (9473):1746

This year, China is expected to become the first country in the world to commercialise a genetically engineered major food grain crop (rice). With less than 10% of the world's arable land, 22% of the world's population, and 142 million hungry people, China seems to have ample justification for its policy of aggressive research into genetically modified (GM) foods as a way of boosting crop yields. But whereas the promise of bumper harvests will be welcome news to many of the country''s cash-crop farmers, GM rice is unlikely to ease the woes of those who need more food.

By signalling that genetic modification is one route to providing food for all, China has bought into a common misconception: that upping food production will eliminate hunger. China''s own history of trying to feed its huge population has shown that larger quantities do not necessarily counter nutritional inequalities. By the mid-1990s, China had achieved the target of ensuring sufficient food production for its population, but many residents of remote rural areas still go hungry because of huge disparities in regional food supplies.

China is, understandably, keen to realise the financial benefits of its two decades' investment in GM research, and the economic rewards for farmers that can afford to cultivate engineered seeds are potentially great. However, this approach will make little headway in feeding China's malnourished millions unless the underlying causes of hunger--poverty and inequitable access to land and trade--are properly addressed. For China to achieve its goal of food for all, it must look beyond the economic lure of biotech options and focus on meeting the basic needs of the country''s poor.

2.China Says Ratifies GMO Transparency Treaty
Reuters, 20 May 2005

BEIJING - China, one of the world''s largest importers of GMO crops, said on Thursday it has ratified a UN treaty the US has spurned that aims for more transparency and control over trade in genetically modified foods.

China''s ratification of the UN's Cartagena Protocol could give a boost to the agreement, which has been signed by more than 100 countries but not the United States, the world''s GMO giant.

The next meeting to negotiate the protocol''s implementation and enforcement is set for Montreal in late May and early June.

China''s State Council, the cabinet, ratified the Protocol on April 27, an official at the State Environmental Protection Administration of China said.

The protocol obliges exporters to provide more information on GMO products like maize and soybeans before any shipment to recipient countries, to help them decide whether to accept it.

Crucially, it lets a nation reject GMO imports or donations, even without scientific proof if it fears they pose a danger to traditional crops or undermine local cultures.

"It (ratification) indicates China''s promise in implementing international treaties and in strengthening its biosafety management. The invasion of imported species is posing a threat to varieties at home and the country has an urgent need to step up management," the State Environmental Protection Agency said:

Environmental campaigners, who fear the impact of GMO crops on biodiversity and health, while manufacturers claim they pose no risk, applauded China''s move.

"China is sending a strong message to the world that it is no dumping ground for GM crops. China''s ratification will add immense weight to the protocol," Greenpeace Campaigner Sze Pang Cheung said in a statement.

The ratification comes into force 90 days from the date of signing, the official said.

China is the world's largest soybean importer with 2004 imports amounting to 20.2 million tonnes, of which Greenpeace says more than 70 percent is thought to be genetically modified.

Greenpeace warns that could pose a threat to the biodiversity of soybean in China.

China is also the world's largest GMO cotton grower.

Under the protocol, nations may reject GMO imports or donations, even without scientific proof, if they fear they pose a danger to traditional crops, undermine local cultures or cut the value of biodiversity to indigenous communities.


Back to the Archive