Against the grain

73054 Via China Study Group, the South China Morning Post reported that “scientists say the rushed introduction of genetically engineered rice on the mainland, as early as 2006, could ruin the nation’s staple food.”

“Proponents of transgenic crops say they cut pesticide and herbicide use and raise yield; and that they have the potential to improve the nutritional content of food, and in the future may deliver key pharmaceutical ingredients too.

Opponents fear genetically altered crops may cause long-term harm to human health; that they will pollute the genetic environment and may raise allergy levels or have other, unforeseen, consequences. A commonly used example is that of the cauliflower spliced with peanut protein. If a nut-allergic child eats it, will they suffer a harmful reaction? Sceptics say a soya bean that is genetically resistant to common pests may be a good thing in itself, but it’s unclear whether it is good for us to ingest that resistance.

The pressure to get on board the genetically engineered bandwagon is intense. Determined not to be outpaced by the US in the race to acquire food biotechnology, China is pouring money into research. Scientists say the government has invested somewhere between 30 and 100 million yuan in designing transgenic rice strains, with one project alone, run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in collaboration with the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, receiving 30 million yuan. ”

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