The Chinese government has recently approved a strain of genetically engineered rice – an important step in becoming the first country producing biotech rice commercially. Following international safety concerns, China had stopped the commercialization of new GM varieties in 2000 – more than 100 GM rice varieties remained in field testing.
It is no secret that China has significantly invested in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the past 20 years. Not surprisingly, the emphasis has been on improving the output, quality and resistance of rice varieties – China produces 31% of the world’s rice and 20% of its corn but only has 7% of the world’s arable land.
A recent survey in China has shown that more than half of the respondents ignored they were buying transgenic produce. While this seemed to cause few problems for most food, GM rice appears much more controversial in China. Issues ranging from the impact on farmers’ income to China’s agriculture technological trajectories are debated in the chatrooms with, seemingly, little political interference. This is good news: GM deserve a broad discussion among all strands of society.