12-19-13 9:43 PM EST | Email Article

A few days later, a report titled "GM Soybean Oil May Cause Cancer" quickly grabbed the attention of the nation. This story was started by the deputy secretary-general of the Heilongjiang Soybean Association, Wang Xiaoyu. He said in a CCTV interview that areas of concentrated GM soybean consumption overlap with areas that have high incidences of cancer. The public discourse was once again focused on the safety of GMO products, as well as the level of transparency of the approvals process for imports.


This time, however, officials did not remain silent. Major state media outlets such as People's Daily and CCTV began expressing support for GMO technology. A series of television programs, expert interviews and agriculture ministry officials explaining GMO approvals procedures flooded the media.


But after years of pushing their arguments, the anti-GMO movement has succeeded in convincing the public to be as concerned about GMOs as it is with tainted milk and cooking oil, food safety scandals that shocked the nation in recent years.


Huang Dafang, a member of the State GM Biosafety Committee, said officials cannot rely solely on science to win the hearts and minds of the public. The key is government policy.


Many industry insiders point to the success of GM cotton to demonstrate the importance of industrial cultivation. In 1999, domestically developed GM cotton went into industrial cultivation, and now home-grown, insect-resistant cotton accounts for over 90% of the GM cotton market.


Meanwhile, China has not begun industrial cultivation of GM soybeans, even though it can. Instead, it is the world's biggest importer of soybeans, bringing in nearly 60 million tons in 2012.


Also, the country imported more than 70 million tons of grains in 2012. GM staples, including rice, could help the government lower this figure.


Many academics think that the future of industrial cultivation of GMOs is no longer simply a question of science, but rather a political decision hinging on factors such as economic development, food security and public discourse.


"The steps taken and the opportunities within industrial cultivation are not decided by science, but by the government alone," Lin Min said.


See this report at Caixin Online. Follow Caixin on Twitter @caixin.

-Cui Zheng; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com


Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

12-19-13 2143ET

Copyright (c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Copyright 2014 MarketWatch
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