One of the most promising developments in ensuring future food security is hitting a significant hurdle in one of the world’s most populous countries. Despite repeatedly being shown to be perfectly safe for human consumption, genetically modified crops have raised the hackles of consumers around the globe, and a growing number of Chinese citizens are snubbing GM products. Reuters reports:
The Chinese government says GM foods are as safe as conventional foods, but wealthier urban consumers are replacing soyoil with sunflower, peanut or sesame, all free of biotech raw materials.
A Nielsen survey last year showed about 70 percent of consumers in China limited or avoided at least some foods or ingredients, compared with a global average of 64 percent, with 57 percent naming GMOs as undesirable. […]
“Non-GMO oil is gradually replacing (soy oil),” said Johnny An, supply chain director at food-service firm Aramark, which serves meals in banks, government offices and schools in more than 60 Chinese cities. A few years ago, 10-20 percent of Aramark’s customers asked for GMO-free oil, he said. Now it’s more than half.
Let’s be clear: GM crops don’t have a safety problem, they have a PR problem. Study after study has cleared them of the charge that they’re somehow safe, but the public by and large remains wary of them as a food source. Much of this skepticism stems from a perception that they’re somehow “unnatural,” a feeling that’s hard to combat with data or scientific findings.
It’s vitally important that this emotional rejection of GMOs is fought, though, because if we’re going to feed our planet’s teeming billions in the coming years, we’re going to need the drought and pest resistance that they offer, and the increased crop yields they can provide. That’s going to be especially important as we adapt to our changing climate, which greens so often warn us is going to make life more difficult.
It’s ironic, then, that the same environmentalists that paint our apocalyptic future in such lurid detail are the ones that are spearheading the campaign against GMOs. The hypocrisy of greens who can criticize climate deniers for ignoring scientists while doing the exact same thing when they demonize GM crops is mind-boggling. It’s also dangerous—a group of 107 Nobel laureates penned a letter this past year in which they criticized Greenpeace for opposing GMOs. They ended that letter with a question: “How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a ‘crime against humanity’?”