China may control future of GMOs

If Chinese policy rules against GMO crops, economist expects other countries will follow suit.

It won’t be thoughtful conversations that dictate if more genetically modified organisms are part of agriculture’s future, says an American economist specializing in global agriculture.

Instead, it will be Chinese politics.

“Whatever China decides on GMO is going to move the needle,” Lutz Goedde of Chicago said during a recent FarmTech presentation in Edmonton.

He said the technology will continue if China gives the green light.

“If China says ‘no,’ I think the U.S. will stay on an island and continue to produce GMOs and the rest of the world will probably will go GMO free,” he said. “At a global level I believe it comes down to China.”

China’s growing demand for imported food will give it the greatest influence on the future of GMOs. Its decisions will affect whether GM grain is fed to hogs and cattle and whether pork bellies are imported to China.

“I think they’re going to determine what is happening in the global market. If they say, ‘we don’t allow GMOs,’ even in form of pork bellies, Latin America is not going to plant GMO crops.”

China’s growing middle class may also influence agricultural decisions. Like North American consumers, China’s affluent middle class consumers are concerned about food safety and are taking a growing interest in agriculture.

Goedde said he hasn’t seen any strong signs China is moving away from GMO technology.

“China has more rice breeders than the rest of the world combined. I think they’ll continue to ramp up their technology,” he said.

But with politics, it’s difficult to know what will happen, he added.

“It can easily go the other way.”

Mary MacArthur, The Western Producer, February 5 2015 

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