China’s size and development trajectory give added weight to any significant shifts in its policies, so its recent warming towards the planting of genetically modified food crops naturally has global significance for the controversial technology. The Economist reports:
Concerns about China’s growing dependence on food imports may be causing policymakers to rethink. This year’s Document Number One, the name given to an annual statement on agriculture that is released by the leadership in January, said for the first time that China would “carefully promote” GM food crops. On April 13th Liao Xiyuan, an official at the agriculture ministry, said China planned to “push forward” commercial cultivation of GM maize over the next five years. […]
Like anywhere else in the world, the progress of GMOs in China depends partly on its ability to navigate the concerns of clueless greens who would rather fear monger about unsubstantiated dangers of these valuable crop technologies than embrace what can be a very important environmentally friendly agricultural solution.
But China’s authoritarian central planners by definition have a much firmer grip on the levers of policy than the West’s noisy democracies do, which, all things being equal, makes it easier for Beijing to boost GM crop cultivation should it choose to do so. For those planners, concerns over a reliance on foreign GM technology far outweigh the Luddite reservations raised by biased environmentalists, and help explain why China hasn’t planted many GM food crops to this point. But as the Economist points out, that could soon be changing:
Worries about foreign domination of GM technology may ease if a $43 billion deal reached in February goes ahead for the takeover of Syngenta, a Swiss agricultural firm, by a Chinese company, ChemChina. The acquisition must still be approved by regulators in several countries, but it could give China control of Syngenta’s valuable GM-seed patents.
GM crops can feed more people while using less land and fewer resources, and it can do this in more extreme conditions—exactly the sort of scenario Chicken Little greens predict awaits humanity.