Government officials' advocation of GM food backfired

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GM food has caught the attention of Chinese people these several years, and it was subject of debate again during the Two Sessions.

Several high-level officials in China which are usually thought by common Chinese to be consuming 100% organic food, said that they are also eating genetically-modified food and would not think of it as a threat.

Han Changbin (韩长斌), Chinese minister of agriculture, said at a press conference during the Two Sessions that he himself would also eat food produced from genetically-modified materials.

“To be more specific, it’s soybean oil. The reason is because China mainly produces the soybean oil from imported soybeans, and most imported soybeans are genetically-modified,” said Han.

The remarks soon caused a sensation on social media, with many netizens questioning the truthfulness of Han’s words based on the knowledge that most high-ranking officials in China are routinely provided with organic food for daily use. On the other hand, many criticized Han of being irresponsible in making the remarks, which sound like “an ad for America’s Monsanto Company”, a controversial business famous for producing GM seeds and selling to the whole world.

Soon after, another Chinese official stood out to back Han’s view about GM food.

“The effect that GM technology has on food security is like that of nuclear technology on resources. It could bring challenges to human existence while it could also herald a promising future,” said Zhang Laiwu, the deputy minister of Ministry of Science and Technology. Zhang was quoted as saying that China should never lag behind when it comes to GM technology and instead, China should take the initiative in climbing to the high ground and try to occupy a dominant position.

He claimed that his family and himself would not worry too much about GM food, “If you ask me to eat, I will do it as long as the food is reasonably priced and delicious.”

Despite the claims of the officials, people remain suspicious.

From December 8-18, 2013, Cui Yongyuan, a CPPCC member and well-known TV anchor, visited six areas in America including Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and did nearly 30 interviews with local experts and residents. Cui made a video of 68 minutes on his own expenses and uploaded it onto the network for more people to watch.

Although the opinions are divided, Cui disclosed that four provinces in China including Hunan, Hubei, Guangxi and Jilin, are all planting GM corn and rice illegally, and on large scales.

“China has not approved the plantation of GM grains, like rice and corn, while in the four provinces, they violated the law and are using more and more land for planting GM grains,” said Cui. According to Cui, GM food actually has already sneaked into our food chain.

For the controversial problem of the safety of GM food, Cui said it’s hard to reach any definite conclusion yet. However, according to him, one thing we could still do is to make sure all GM food are clearly marked. “Not only for the 100% GM food, but also for those with GM ingredients,” he said, “The public at least should be granted the right to choose to eat or not to eat.”

Cui has already made his proposal regarding GM food as a CPPCC member. And he urged more transparency on the issue, “It’s unfair for us to eat all things they want us to eat. If you don’t have an issue with it, then enjoy it; but if you are also concerned, you should be entitled to refuse.”

According to Cui, at the current stage, the problem is that GM food are not specifically marked, so people just could not avoid it, considering all daily food products like soybean milk and cakes could all contain GM ingredients.

Most netizens expressed their concerns about food security following the 'bold' remarks of government officials.

@东方亮066: Before there is any solid proof that GM food is safe, shouldn’t the government avoid supporting or encouraging the food in any way. Instead, they are expected to prohibit its widespread application and use. If some individual choose to use GM food himself, then it's fine.

@Zhang Laiwu: As long as it’s delicious: So, the standard of food security now becomes “delicious”, right? For such high-ranking officials to speak things in such logic, I’ve got nothing to say.

@吴悠morefree: Couldn’t the brainwashing job be done more sincerely? These officials should make a documentary to prove that they eat GM food every day, then they will definitely have our support.

@王栋栋9: About GM food, the science and technology minister said, “If you ask me to eat, then I will do it, as long as the prices are reasonable and the food is delicious. And the agricultural minister said ‘I myself eat GM food.” Oh, My god. If you all eat shit, would you ask others to eat shit also? You officials are supposed to make complete and sensible reports about the safety, nutritional contents and side effects of GM food.


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