| BEIJING, Sept 30
BEIJING, Sept 30 China's government has kicked
off a media campaign in support of genetically modified crops,
as it battles a wave of negative publicity over a technology it
hopes will play a major role in boosting its food security.
The agriculture ministry earlier this week announced it
would try to educate the public on GMO via TV, newspapers and
It hopes to stifle anti-GMO sentiment that has gathered
momentum in the wake of incidents such as reports that
genetically-modified rice had been illegally sold at a
supermarket in the centre of the country.
Beijing has been a long-time proponent of GMOs, which it
sees as broadly safe and as potentially key in helping feed the
world's largest population.
But critics have alleged the technology could pose health
risks, and while China allows imports of some GMO crops it is
yet to permit domestic cultivation.
China has imported millions of tonnes of GMO soybeans each
year for the past decade to feed the world's largest stock of
farmed pigs and to produce around 40 percent of the county's
vegetable oil needs. China consumes around a third of the
world's soybeans, and snaps up roughly 65 percent of all imports
"(We will create) a social atmosphere which is beneficial
for the healthy development of the genetically-modified
industry," the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
A stream of negative reports this year on certain biotech
foods, has dragged on already-slow progress towards domestic
cultivation and may have played a role in curbing imports of
The discovery of a strain of genetically modified corn that
had not been approved by Beijing in some U.S. shipments to China
wreaked havoc in the grains market, with trader Cargill
estimating losses of more than $90 million as a
The discoveries also triggered lawsuits against Syngenta
, the developer of the unapproved corn variety.
The country has also suspended the import approval process
for a genetically modified soybean variety, citing "low public
acceptance" of GMO food, according to two people familiar with
China has spent billions of yuan developing its own GMO
crops and approved two pest-resistant varieties of rice and a
biotech corn for commercialisation in 2009. But, wary of strong
opposition to the GMO technology, never proceeded to
cultivation. The safety certificates on the products expired
In comments from a speech made months ago but only published
this week, Chinese president Xi Jinping urged the industry to be
bold in competition with foreign GMO developers.
(Additional reporting by Niu Shuping; Editing by Gavin Maguire
and Joseph Radford)