Clarity for China’s Growing GMO Debate

Texas Hill Country
Doing Agronomy 101
0902 hrs 

The debate over genetically-modified crops is reaching the boiling point among Chinese policy-makers, and the past several months have witnessed a spate of media coverage on the issue suggesting that the two sides are taking their case public to try to sway the issue.

One would hope that the science will win out in the end, but in the meantime I am doing a deep-dive on the GMO issue to a) understand where the scientific consensus lies, beyond corporate positioning and activist FUD, b) understand China’s interests in the area, so that I can c) start making some calls as to where this will go in the region.

Which is important because where China falls on GMOs is critical to the special interests cheering from the sidelines on both sides. As a massive and growing consumer of the world’s agricultural products, a ruling by China on GMOs either way could determine the future of genetically-modified crops worldwide. Yet as an increasingly important exporter of processed food, China does not want to get too far ahead of the world on the issue.

There are a ton of superb, science-based resources on GMOs, and Dr. Cami Ryan at the University of Saskatchewan has compiled an incomparable list of those resources. Some are technical, but most are highly accessible even for those of us who haven’t taken a science class since our freshman year in college.


The overall trouble about the GMO debate is that both sides (or every side) WANT to win, as opposed to ‘succeeding.’ There’s a fine line of difference between winning and succeeding. Not being a gambler myself but for my money, I’ll wager that China will side with GMO. For China’s huge landmass and huge population, 80% of its land is uninhabitable and unfarmable. Just on those two simplistic reasons, China seems to have its hands tied and has to be in favour of GMO.

David Wolf

I think you’re right, which is something of a pity. As passionate (and, often, angry) as Big Ag and Big Green have been on their respective sides of this debate, the debate itself has been a critical process, not to mention a study in the nature of policy debates held in public (Big Ag brings cash, Big Green brings agit-prop). What I am hoping is that science will win out, and that we will de-couple the issue from both Monsanto and Greenpeace. Either way, the process taking place in English has the virtue of being open, and I don’t see that taking place in Chinese to anywhere near the same degree.