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Where there is a will, there is a way.

 
 
 

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年过半百,经历坎坷.少年遇"文革",下乡八载,虽历经磨难,唯斗志不减,农耕间隙自学不辍,终守得云开日出,考进大学.大学毕业后先后经历了中学执教,国企管理,外企高管,最后回归重执教鞭.目前在家精心培养有志掌握英语的中小学生. 我最大的愿望就是看到孩子学有所成,桃李天下.

我新发表的文章《把转基因食品的选择权留给消费者》  

2013-09-30 10:46:05|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Let consumers decide on GMF

 

Wu Guangqiang

 AN online salvo between two celebrities has triggered a new round of debate about the safety of genetically modified food (GMF).

 On Sept. 14, Fang Zhouzi, a biochemist and vocal supporter of GM technology, led more than 20 volunteers in sampling GM corn at an experimental field of China Agricultural University, in an attempt to prove the safety of GMF. The following day, Cui Yongyuan, a well-known talk show host with CCTV, questioned Fang in his Weibo posts.

In the polemic, Fang argued that GMF is safe and called on the Chinese to eat GMF “every day.” Cui sneered at Fang’s “science,” implying that Fang was “spreading rumors.”

Like elsewhere in the world, China’s camps of GMF backers and detractors are in sharp conflict, with the detracting party presently prevailing. Many Chinese have lived in dread of GMF, oppressed by widespread hearsay that consumption of biotech foods can lead to developing malignant diseases such as cancer. Many people have acquired such fears through a lack of knowledge about GMF and the assumption that any man-modified food is hazardous. Authorities’ long-obscure position on the GMF issue has intensified the phobia.

 In most cases, public fears come from the deprivation of their right to know. Nobody wants to be tested on like a guinea pig. Last September, a piece of news plunged the masses into panic: Dozens of children in the town of Jiangkou in Hunan Province were believed to have been fed modified “golden rice” as part of a nutrition research program led by a professor from Tufts University in the U.S. in 2008.

 Most parents of students that ate the rice said they had not been told the true nature of the test and were worried about risks — some parents said their children could suffer from lung disease or lose reproductive capabilities when they grew up.

 To appease angry parents, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention suspended a fellow researcher allegedly involved in the case. On Sept. 18, Tufts University expressed its “apology” for its “breach of the agreement and standards” concerning the test.

The biggest public concerns include whether GMF is safe and whether we are actually consuming it now without our knowledge. There is a positive answer to the former question, while facts about the latter are ominously alarming.

Experts say 60 to 70 percent of processed foods on U.S. grocery shelves have genetically modified ingredients. The most common genetically modified foods are soybeans, corn, cotton and rapeseed oil. And quite contrary to most people’s assumption, GMF isn’t labeled in the U.S.

On the safety of GMF, the European Union and the U.S., which is the largest producer of genetically modified crops, are boxing it out. The U.S. Government’s position is that genetically engineered crops are safe, resist disease better and can provide much-needed food in starving nations.

 The EU’s position, though, is to keep it out in favor of organic foods, which are much healthier. The risk of genetically modified foods to health and the environment outweigh the benefits and only multinational biotech companies will benefit, dominating the world food supply and squeezing out traditional farmers, the EU adds.

 Chinese consumers had scanty information about GMF situations in China until Sept. 16, when the People’s Daily unveiled GM crop varieties officially approved to be grown and imported. Presently, production safety certificates cover cotton, rice, corn and papaya, of which only cotton and papaya have been given the green light for commercial plantations. In addition, GM soybeans, corn, rapeseed, sugar beets and cotton have been officially approved as imported raw materials for processing. So it’s obvious that most of Chinese have used some sort of GMF, such as cooking oil processed with GM soybeans.

 It seems that Chinese consumers are unlikely to avoid eating GMF as powerful U.S. businesses are bent on opening up the world’s largest market for their GMF products. Yet consumers are entitled to the rights to know, to choose and to be ensured of safety.

The first thing needed is to make the labeling of all GMF mandatory, thus leaving the choice to consumers. The second thing is to enact laws to regulate the entire process of GMF: research, production, transport, storage, labeling and sales. Importantly, all such legislation must be enforceable.

 Health and safety for 1.3 billion people are not trifling matters.

 

(The author is an English tutor and a freelance writer.)

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