GE Rice: Food Safety vs. Food Security

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Great example of competing policy interests in China and how these can change over time. From reading all the news over the past couple years, as I know you do, you are already aware of the food safety problem in this country. There have been huge scandals involving almost every food product one can think of, many well-known domestic and foreign companies, and many incidents that have involved consumer deaths.

Another government concern is food supply, something that the PRC has been dealing with off and on (mostly on) since 1949. There are actually two issues here: having enough food for everyone to eat, a problem that is for the most part thankfully in the past, and food security, ensuring that supply can be adequately maintained by domestic producers.

For a long time, the PRC had very specific food security goals with respect to domestic production in an attempt to limit the country’s reliance on foreign trading partners. That policy seems to have been relaxed somewhat in recent times by necessity, and grain imports from countries like the U.S. have been higher in some years.

In my reading about genetically modified rice over the years (which has been quite limited, mind you), I always got the sense that food security was a big driver and that the government was willing to cut some corners to that end.

But in light of the recent emphasis on food safety in general, coupled with specific problems with GE rice and the work done by activists, it seems as though food safety might be taking precedence in this area:

China’s State Council has released a ground-breaking draft proposal of a grain law that establishes legislation restricting research, field trials, production, sale, import and export of genetically engineered grain seeds. The draft stipulates that no organization or person can employ unauthorized GE technology in any major food product in China.

I’m not sure why I find this so interesting. Probably lack of sleep.