To GMO or to not GMO

GLOBAL TIMES – The Commission on Science and Technology Development (CSTD) has been caught up in a debate of semantics. The mood of the CSTD was cordial, however debates grew sour at the brief mention of genetically modified (GM) foods. The issue has become so divisive, that the CSTD has divided into three informal groups: “pro-GMO” mostly comprised of developed countries like the United Kingdom, “anti-GMO” mostly comprised of developing countries like Thailand, and a a neutral of around delegates like Dominican Republic.

Thailand and Uganda were particularly vocal of their opposition, citing potential health concerns that might arise from the technology. Thailand took a firm stance against biotechnology, however Uganda made clear that “research is not inherently bad.” Both delegates further stated that corporations who operate in the Global South tend to exploit local workers and cause upheaval to domestic food systems, often by way of monopolisation.

Austria, Hungary, Japan, Kenya, and Russia were sceptical of the use of GM foods, and stressed the need for more research, however, when asked whether they were open to biotechnology, they were conflicted over its merits. This sentiment was confirmed by several delegates from the developing world. When asked, Kazachstan stated that there was a need for GMOs in the short term, but there are several concerns over consumption of GMOs in the long term.

Some members of the CSTD however were concerned over the opinions of “anti-GMO” delegates surrounding GM foods, considering such views as “anti-scientific.” The United Kingdom was “disappointed that the Science Committee doesn’t know about science.”

Anonymous sources within the CSTD have stated several times that current proposals for food security use the vague language of “biotechnology” as a means to avoid the controversial term of “GMO.” There seems to be some confusion among several delegates over the terms GM foods and biotechnology. Delegates from the “anti-GMO” group, who wished to remain anonymous, were not aware that “biotechnology,” as a whole, also encompasses “GM foods.” When pressed further to why the CSTD preferred the term “biotechnology,” an anonymous source stated that “it was used to better appeal to states in the [Global South],” most of whom vehemently oppose GMOs.

While the CSTD continues to hold talks without China, it is worth noting the Chinese position on the issue of GM foods. China holds a stance where GM foods and other biotechnologies are heavily controlled. All GM products in China must provide adequate labelling, which corresponds with China’s strict regulations on the introduction of GM crops. China will continue to support further research into biotechnology, including GM foods, and supports its regulated introduction into the Chinese market. China understands the concerns of the CSTD delegates, especially those from the developing world who do not support GMOs. However, China commits itself as a leader in innovation and scientific research. China regrets that it could not play a negotiator role in the CSTD and reaffirms its commitment to international development.