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Biotech China

China Pulls Plug On Genetically Modified Rice and Corn 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-on-my-plate dept.
sciencehabit writes China's Ministry of Agriculture has decided not to renew biosafety certificates that allowed research groups to grow genetically modified (GM) rice and corn. The permits, to grow two varieties of GM rice and one transgenic corn strain, expired on 17 August. The reasoning behind the move is not clear, and it has raised questions about the future of related research in China.
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China Pulls Plug On Genetically Modified Rice and Corn

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  • Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NFN_NLN (633283)

    Considering this is the country that put melamine in milk and cadmium in toys, this speaks volumes.

    I would like to know their official justification.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoKaOi (1415755) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @12:45AM (#47718071)

      Considering this is the country that put melamine in milk and cadmium in toys, this speaks volumes.

      Except in those cases those things were done in violation of the law. The issue was that it wasn't being enforced, not that it was legal. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that I want to know both the "official" and the actual reasons. Oddly, the permits that are being denied are for Bt rice and phytase corn, but they continue to support Bt corn, so environment or food safety doesn't seem like it would be an actual reason, although it could be the "official" reason. A more likely scenario is politics and lobbying (or whatever the Chinese version of lobbying is, they probably just call it bribery).

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        Oddly, the permits that are being denied are for Bt rice and phytase corn, but they continue to support Bt corn, so environment or food safety doesn't seem like it would be an actual reason,

        That's an assertion, but is it true? Bt [grain] produces poison. Perhaps the poison is still present in the edible rice, but not the edible corn? I don't know, but there may be other reasons, perhaps it's because corn is so low in production, and not a traditional crop with widespread domestic use, so it's not a "health issue"? Just because one is banned and the other not doesn't mean that safety must not be a reason.

        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

          by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @07:32AM (#47719107)

          It produces a poison in the same sense that chocolate and grapes are poisonous (don't feed those to your dog). The Bt protein has a very specific mode of action in certain insect pests, and does not impact humans. It is not a health concern, and has been used in organic food production for decades before suddenly becoming controversial once genetic engineering got involved.

          Also, that a plant produces a poison is not an alarming thing. In fact, it is ubiquitous. Chemical defenses are found throughout the plant kingdom, including in crop plants. Things like solanine in potatoes, or glucosinolates in broccoli, or even caffeine in coffee and tea (note that they are produced respectively in the seeds and leaves, two things a plant might want to defend...that humans like them for it is kind of an evolutionary plot twist) all have insecticidal properties. Anti-GMO groups love to be alarmist over the fact that some GMOs produce an additional insecticide (yes, one more, even non-GMO corn is going to have things like maysin in it) but in and of itself is not alarming. It's just preying on the ignorance of those who do now know just how many natural pesticides we consume daily.

          • But has this been tested on humans? And proven safe? Or did they just make a result fit the outcome? But do like how you cannot grow unmodified corn in the us of Monsanto or pioneer. Seems a small mistake in Idaho, and we were done. Thanks, folks.
            • But has this been tested on humans?

              Nope, but neither have a lot of things that present no reason to be suspicious of. Show me a long term multi-generational study on Wi-Fi exposure. You probably can't. Does that implicate Wi-Fi as potentially dangerous? Not unless I can provide a legitimate reason as to why one would be necessary, which I can't. Yeah, people go 'Ahh, no human study and they're feeding it to us!' but you know what, that's grasping for straws, implying there is a difference that requires study where none exists. Now, yo

          • by ne0n (884282)
            People aren't much concerned about the natural pesticides which we've evolved to tolerate/enjoy over millions of years - it's the ignorant approach of engineering food to produce glyphosate-dependent staple foods or force crops to produce toxins and then letting it loose on the world. You can't prevent cross-pollination with natural crops. 20-50 years later when we find out it's toxic after all, who pays that bill?
          • It is not a health concern, and has been used in organic food production for decades before suddenly becoming controversial once genetic engineering got involved.

            The difference is that Bt used to be applied topically, and in a relatively short while biologically breaks down so you don't ingest it.

            In contrast, Bt corn produces the chemicals internally. The chemicals get ingested intact where before they never were. As a result entire populations of people test positive for contagion of Bt that never wer

      • by Idou (572394)

        (or whatever the Chinese version of lobbying is, they probably just call it bribery).

        Interesting. A language with less redundancy must be more efficient.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 21, 2014 @12:56AM (#47718109)

      What an idiotic comment. The CPC didn't authorise putting melamine in milk or cadmium in toys. Both were illegal and the perpetrators of both were brought to justice. I don't know the details of cadmium laced toys, but the ring leaders of the melamine doped milk scandal were put to death.

      Your comment is as stupid as blaming the US congress for the Union Carbide disaster.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        While I agree with you, I don't think the party permitted the contamination. Execution of those involved is hardly evidence.
        Sufficiently embarrassing the party can get one executed.
        The party needing a scapegoat can get one executed.
        Having an organ needed elsewhere can get one executed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I don't read Chinese anymore, but I can tell you with certainty that deliberate mass homocide is a capital offense in China and was before the incident in question. They were not simply trumped up and executed by decree.

          China enforcing their own laws is the very opposite of corruption. There is a huge amount of corruption and lawlessness in China, and the CPC admits as much and recognises it as a problem in need of a solution (most of the corruption is at local levels of government and in private companies)

    • by johanw (1001493)

      "Considering this is the country that put melamine in milk"

      The directors of the company that did this were executed. In the US, they would get a bonus of $10M for increased profits in the short term and then a fine of $1M.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jandersen (462034) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @04:10AM (#47718647)

      Considering this is the country that put melamine in milk and cadmium in toys, this speaks volumes.

      I would like to know their official justification.

      China - the country as a whole or its government - can not be held responsible for crimes committed by private companies or individuals. In fact, these things happened because there was not enough governmental oversight - IOW too much freedom, rather than too little. This is what used to happen in the West, when companies were similarly unrestrained by legislation; things like adding chalk to bread and water to milk. Regulation is not all bad.

      As for their official justification, they don't owe us any, but it seems likely that they are worried about the behaviour of the GM companies. Although GM holds huge potential in terms of nutrition, there are many things that give cause for concern: patented genes that spread to neighboring fields, genes that provide restitence to weed-killers spreading to wild species, modifications that hinder the production of viable seeds, so the farmers have to buy new GM seed from the producers rather than growing part of their harvest on next year, etc etc. I'm sure GM would be welcome in most countries if it was not for the companies producing them.

      Another thing is that the Chinese are fully capable of developing or buying the technology themselves - so why should they allow in American companies that are only intent on siphoning off as much profit as possible to their share holders?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        patented genes that spread to neighboring fields

        All genes do. If you are referring to the 'people getting sued' over it thing, look into it further. No one has ever been sued for simply being cross pollinated, and give China's general stance on IP of any kind, I highly doubt any company would have a chance of successfully suing in China.

        genes that provide restitence to weed-killers spreading to wild species

        To my knowledge there has never been any documented example of the herbicide tolerant gene jumping between GMO crops and weeds. There has, however, been selective pressure on weed populations that has resulted in the e

        • by Anonymous Coward

          No one has ever been sued for simply being cross pollinated

          http://www.dailytech.com/Monsanto+Defeats+Small+Farmers+in+Critical+Bioethics+Class+Action+Suit/article24118.htm

          That was the only one I knew offhand, so maybe there is more here than what we know publicly...

          • That's referring to the OSGATA vs Monsanto case. It basically went like this:

            Plaintiff: We want to sue Monsanto before they sue us over cross pollination.
            Judge: Can you prove they do that?
            Plaintiff: Well, no, but what does that matter?
            Judge: Case dismissed.

            • by tepples (727027)

              Plaintiff: We want to sue Monsanto before they sue us over cross pollination.
              Judge: Can you prove they do that?
              Plaintiff: Well, no

              Should have said Monsanto v. Schmeiser.

              • The case where Schmeiser knowingly and intentionally selected for transgenic traits, pretended it was all a big coincidence, then got caught? The OSGATA case could have referenced the Schmeiser case if it actually demonstrated what they were claiming, but they could not because it does not. Again, no one got sued for cross pollination.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Monsanto Canada v. Schmeiser [wikipedia.org]

            This might be a better example.

        • by volmtech (769154)

          Remember the Star Trek episode with all the alternative universes where the Borg were taking over and one frantic Riker in a burning Enterprise pleading that he couldn't go back, it's horrible? That is how potato farming in the South would be without herbicides. We harvest spring potatoes in May just as weed growth hits full stride. Wrestling potatoes out of weed choked soil makes fighting the Borg look like a picnic. As a young man forty years ago we just fought the war but no one wants to go back. Today t

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Indeed. It's not a policy problem or law problem, it's simply about enforcement.

        Go watch a traffic cop at a busy intersection in China. He'll see about 10 traffic violations a minute. He can get to one. Doing that day in and day out conditions them to only go after the one that was seriously dangerous (as opposed to just plain dangerous).

        Most Chinese cops* are straight up good people tasked with keeping the place safe. But think about the ratio of police to civilians, it's simply impossible to enforce like

      • Re: Wow (Score:3, Informative)

        The real reason was published several weeks back. Japan, one of chinas trading partners, said it was going to stop importing GMO rice. Money talks, China wants to keep its trading partners, so??? Don't take no rocket scientist!!!
      • by phorm (591458)

        This is what used to happen in the West, when companies were similarly unrestrained by legislation

        Maple Leaf Meats. Deepwater Horizon. Exxon Valdez. Mount Polly Mine. Tepco.

        I'd say that the East and the West do a fairly shitty job of enforcing regulation. You can have all the legislation you want but lack of enforcement or monitoring = fail. The West would like to point fingers at China but frankly we've been chasing profits at the expense of health+safety just as much.

    • they executed executives who did that, unlike the US where when it happened no one got in trouble. China daid seperately they dont want GMOs, they banned ours, because everyone who looks at GMOs knows they arent just bad for you, there awful.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Considering this is the country that put melamine in milk and cadmium in toys, this speaks volumes.

      I would like to know their official justification.

      Considering what they did to the people they caught - who were putting melamine in mile and cadmium in toys - how the fuck did you get modded "insightful" (was there no tag for "irredeemably stupid"?).

  • by BenJeremy (181303) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @12:40AM (#47718049)

    So get out, Monsanto, you dirty capitalist pigs!

    Seriously, though, this means little. China will use their own knockoff version now and market it, as well.

  • Off topic (Score:3, Informative)

    by codepigeon (1202896) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @12:53AM (#47718093)
    I have been a daily slashdot visitor since about the year 2001. Just now I was redirected to a full page ad that I would associate with crappy, suspicious websites.

    I don't want to be another complainer, but this site is begging me to stop visiting. I am not very happy.
    • by RussR42 (779993)
      Sometimes I forget that some people see ads on the internet. It's disappointing to hear that /. is engaged in full page nastiness.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Holy crap, I turned off ad block. I didn't see any full page ads, but a bunch of other moving ads.
      Yikes, I certainly wouldn't come here if I had to look at those ads.

    • I don't want to be another complainer, but this site is begging me to stop visiting. I am not very happy.

      There's a town nearby that is behaving similar to Slashdot '14. They have a tax shortfall, so they raise taxes, and people move out. This creates a tax shortfall so, GOTO 1.

      The property values have literally fallen in half in the past decade, while other area towns' properties have maintained or slightly increased, and there are many abandoned properties now (with associated problems).

      Slashdot will se

    • by wallsg (58203)

      With AdBlock and NoScript you don't see any of that crap. X10 pretty much started it in the late 90's and it's pretty much gone downhill ever since.

      When I first started using those tools I wanted to only block the bad actors, but I quickly found that pretty much everybody was bad to some degree. Now with malware attacks through served ads I don't understand why anyone wouldn't be using these tools.

      Checking the "reward" box from SlashDot to turn off ads doesn't change a thing that I see.

    • by johanw (1001493)

      " Just now I was redirected to a full page ad"
      So you're admitting you still have no adblocker installed? Then don't expect pitty. My old mother need my help to install things like that, if you\re on Shalsdot you're expected to be able to do that yourself.

  • fear (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dorianny (1847922) on Thursday August 21, 2014 @12:56AM (#47718113) Journal
    Public skepticism about GMO's has been growing in China and the government there is extremely concerned with anything that can enrage popular discontent. They know and are very fearful that a movement or protests against GMO's can quickly snowball and morph into anti-government protests. China is extremely mindful of protests because its reliance on global trade and the internet means that they way it can respond is much more limited. Another Tienanmen Square would be a complete disaster with severe repercussions for the government.
    • Public skepticism about GMO's has been growing in China and the government there is extremely concerned with anything that can enrage popular discontent.

      Just because it's no longer legal to grow genetically modified foods in China doesn't mean that Chinese corporations won't use them. Making GM seeds illegal cuts out a lot of red tape for both the government and the companies, gives China plausible deniability if things go badly in the future, and also gives the government a way to research China's own GMO crops that will somehow be different from the dangerous Western-created GMO products.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Just because it's no longer legal to grow genetically modified foods in China doesn't mean that Chinese corporations won't use them.

        Yea, but the CEOs risk execution if they do.
        The Chinese Government doesn't fuck around with multi-year trials and then a bullshit penalty.

    • Another Tienanmen Square would be a complete disaster with severe repercussions for the government.

      I agree with you, but I think such a happening is highly unlikely, despite the fact that there are many Chinese citizens who aren't really happy with their government. Here's the reason. Did you know that the Chinese constitution has the PLA swearing to protect the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)? Think about that. Their job is to protect the CCP, not the nation or the citizens but the CCP. What this means, in my opinion as an outside observer (I have never lived in China, but I have visited there severa

  • Just because they currently can feed people doesn't mean that will last. There will be droughts, infestations, population increases, and more events that can be helped by GMOs. Of course China seems to have no problem destroying the environment with massive amounts of chemicals whose usage could be drastically reduced with proper science. The Chinese government seems to place a low value on an human life so maybe this is just their own sick version of population control.

    • Don't worry. China will be able to feed their population, no matter what. The question is whether you will be if they're pressed to hoover up the food around the globe. You'd be amazed if you knew just HOW much purchasing power the Chinese government has and how willing it is to avoid any kind of protests.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Are you affiliated with monsanto by any chance? You sound like it.

      Genetic manipulating is fun and all, but its efficacy in the long run compared to the rest of our box'o'tricks is still very much out there. Like everything it has its downsides along with the upsides. For example that it's really hard to keep properly contained. It's a good racket for the rightsholders to the "genetic IP" of the stuff, though. Such parties' goodwill is not something I'd like to have to depend upon if I had to feed 1.4mrd peo

  • They found it was cheaper to fake it from plastic.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The answer to this is very easy. It is cheaper and quicker to steal the information from the U.S. and other countries than to reproduce the 'wheel'.

  • China has a growing middle class, and a growing class of perpetually single men. They need to stop the middle class from becoming so affluent so quickly (where do you park 400 million cars?), and they need to find jobs for the millions of sad horny guys who could easily become revolutionaries. If the cost of food rises a few percent here and there it bleeds excess capital out of the system, inconveniences a few on the long tail, but as a whole (remember, China thinks long-term, and like a single organis

  • In stark contrast to Western nations, China is largely ruled by qualified engineers and technicians. They presumably understand the insanity of radically undermining the technology that feeds most of the world's human beings: agriculture. Any experimentation with agriculture should be done with extreme caution, and as far as possible contained so it is reversible.

    Less important, but also worth considering: do we really want a world where one or two vast bloated Western corporations literally own the food th

    • The idea that one or two corporations will own the food supply is an insane paranoic delusion. Already many of the key traits used in GMO foods are off-patent and in the public domain.

      Round-up ready soybeans, the most successful GMO trait comes off patent in 2015.

      • by Justpin (2974855)
        Is it really paranoid? Consider Kraft and Unilever, they make pretty much everything under different brand names. They are hoovering up other brands and putting them under their labels.
        • Kraft is a large company, but it has DOZENS of equal sized or larger competitors in the markets it serves. For example in the beverages segment Snapple is bigger than they are. In cheese Mondelez is three times bigger. And so on.

          Unilever is hardly a food company at all. It sells 10 times more personal care products (soap etc) than it does food.

          Don't confuse diversification with market share. Two very different things.

    • "...proven and documented cases of specific harm caused by GM "food"."

      Which do not actually exist. Care to cite any?

  • It has to be either they have developed their own to the point they don't want competition, someone didn't get sufficiently greased or irrational fears. Bribes can trump the others so there's your reason.
  • ...somebody forgot to mail their bribe check to the appropriate official. Or perhaps a competitor mailed a bigger check.

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