Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

A Tipping Point for GM Foods?

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

A Tipping Point for GM Foods?

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Genetically Modified Rice, Yields, and Pesticides: Assessing Farm-Level Productivity Effects in China" by Jikun Huang, Ruifa Hu, Scott Rozelle, and Carl Pray, in Economic Development and Cultural Change, Jan. 2008.

SCIENTISTS HAVE BEEN WORKing on genetically modified (GM) plants for 25 years, but the developing world has rejected virtually every bioengineered food crop. Rice is one of the world's great staples, for example, but only Iran markets a GM version. Now China may be poised to join it. And if China goes, competitive pressures may force the rest of the world to follow.

Time was when the ability of scientists to engineer seeds to fend off insects and disease was touted as the salvation of a hungry world. But that dream has collided with consumer concerns about "Frankenfoods" strong antibiotechnology activism, and governments' fears of trade retaliation. GM corn and soybeans are widely grown for animal fodder in the United States and Canada, but fierce opposition from these countries' trading partners has checked growth. Industrial crops such as GM cotton and corn, however, are commonly harvested in other countries, including China and South Africa.

In China, four versions of GM insect- or disease-resistant rice have made it to the third and final stage of safety trials required by Beijing, write Jikun Huang and Ruifa Hu, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Scott Rozelle and Carl Pray, of Stanford and Rutgers, respectively. But until their study, little research had been conducted on whether the crops live up to their billing. …

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