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]