A stream of public criticism from retired military officials against China's rising engagement with genetically modified food doesn't amount to institutional hostility against the science, a senior adviser to Beijing's cabinet said.
Ye Xingqing, director of the rural economy department at the State Council Development Research Center, said Beijing still regards GMO as the kind of cutting-edge global technology the country must pursue, at least in research, despite vocal sections of public opinion that oppose broadening the use of GMO food for human use.
Recent essays published in local newspapers by some of China's former brass drew attention to fears that GMOs might be a way by which a Western conspiracy, led by the U.S., could further undermine China's security. But this is mostly coming from some retired officers writing on an issue outside their areas of expertise, Mr. Ye told the Wall Street Journal at a China Europe International Business School conference on Sunday.
'They think GMOs are a technology with ulterior motives, and that Americans are laying a trap for the Chinese. But not all ordinary Chinese support this opinion, and Chinese officials also feel that GMO is essentially a technological issue, not a political question or one with ulterior motives,' Mr. Ye said.
Mr. Ye's remarks offer an insight to the different stripes of opinion that make GMOs one of China's most contentious public policy issues. They also underline that, despite recent controversy over China's rejection of some GMO U.S. corn imports, Beijing squarely recognizes that it must embrace the technology, even if it would rather do so on its own terms.
The discovery of the MIR-162 GMO strain -- a strain which Beijing is still studying and hasn't yet approved-- among U.S. corn shipments in November and December came amid record-high imports of the yellow grain to China. The scandal blunted bookings of U.S. corn, Mr. Ye said.
As a result, corn shipments from the U.S. in March and April have begun giving way to purchases from Ukraine and Thailand. But, even though the diversification of its suppliers may be a desirable goal, Beijing isn't deliberately pursuing such a policy just yet, Mr. Ye said. The shifts in China's corn supply base are largely 'a market matter,' made noticeable only because their relatively low base makes volume changes more pronounced, he said.
China's rising wealth and demographic changes are driving a revamp in how Beijing manages the security of its food resources. Though domestic production is still its most important policy, imports have become an increasingly crucial component, Mr. Ye said. But agriculture officials are keen to stress that the world doesn't have to fear that China's entry into global food markets would result in a beggar-thy-neighbor policy.
'Import increases will be gradual, even and slow,' Mr. Ye said.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images 玉米
本地报纸近期刊发了一些原军方人士的文章，这些文章怀疑转基因食品可能是美国牵头的西方对中国实施的阴谋，可能进一步危害中国的安全，文章发表后引发了外界关注。但叶兴庆在周日的中欧国际工商学院(China Europe International Business School)论坛上向《华尔街日报》(Wall Street Journal)表示，这主要是一些退休的军方官员在并非自己专业领域的一个问题上发表的看法。