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Chinese Fear-Monger Mangles Science to Smear GMOs

The Chinese tend to be leery of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and the deputy general secretary of a provincial soybean association in China recently stoked their fears. Conflating correlation with causation, Wang Xiaoyu noted that Chinese regions with high GMO consumption also had relatively high rates of cancer, concluding that GMOs make people “more vulnerable to developing tumors and suffering sterility.”

As the WSJ reports, science isn’t backing Wang’s claims up:

Experts were quick to call Mr. Wang’s methodology into question, with several noting that he had failed to present even a scintilla of laboratory evidence linking GMO soy oil with cancer or fertility problems. But in a country already deeply suspicious of genetically modified crops, social media users took the idea and ran with it, sending fear over carcinogenic oil seeping through the Chinese Internet.

Much of the public pushback on GMOs is based on a disgust for imagined “frankenfoods” and emotional aversion to something perceived as “unnatural.” Not surprisingly, many greens have jumped on the anti-GMO bandwagon, though recently some are starting to come to their senses and embrace the technology, acknowledging what Pamela Ronald, a UC Davis geneticist, calls the “broad scientific consensus that genetically engineered crops currently on the market are safe to eat.”

But the Chinese public remains largely opposed to the planting of GMO crops. While the country imports plenty of genetically modified soybean crops from the US and Brazil, it doesn’t allow any commercial planting domestically. That’s going to be a problem going forward, as China struggles to feed its massive population in the face of dwindling water and polluted air. Agri-tech that can produce larger yields from smaller (and more polluted) inputs should be seen as a blessing. Instead, it’s being demonized.

[Soybean field image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Corlyss

    “Much of the public pushback on GMOs is based on a disgust for imagined “frankenfoods” and emotional aversion to something perceived as “unnatural.” Not surprisingly, many greens have jumped on the anti-GMO bandwagon,”

    Well, first of all, the leader in the biz is the US. So some of that is good ol’ anti-Americanism. Secondly, the ruthlessness with which Monsanto guards their patents gives capitalism a bad name. Third, I’d be willing to bet money that a lot of the junk-science greens still believe that GMO foods promote population growth among the very people the greens don’t want to breed – the third world. Population growth in those nations produces people who want western conveniences driven by cheap energy. Lastly, they are so scientifically and historically ignorant they don’t realize they’ve been eating GMO food since the first farmer realized he could get better yield and hardier plants by selective breeding. I think that was something like thousands of years ago.

    • Jim__L

      Ah, but the romantic, Gaia-saving types out there see life finally imitating art. Frankenstein built his creature out of the most beautiful parts he could collect, yet the whole was somehow (through artistic license, to be honest) horrible, less than the sum of its parts.

      Geneticists are going through the same process now, picking the best parts and combining them. They must obviously go wrong the same way they went wrong in a fictional work! The rules of melodrama demand it!

    • ljgude

      Indeed it did happen a long time ago in the general area of Iran for the most part. Jarred Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel tells the story. I grew up on a farm and the legal jiggery pokery that Monsanto gets up to makes my blood boil. If their strains pollute my crops and modify my plants then they should pay me damages not be able to sue me for patent infringement. I think farmers have a natural right to their own seeds and and if Monsanto’s genetic mods can’t be contained in nature – well hard cheese. I am all for GMO research and I would encourage a country like China to create their own and open source them.

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