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China betting big on GM crops, cloned food animals

On the heels of the FDA approving the first genetically-modified food animal – an Atlantic salmon – for U.S. consumers, it’s worth checking on what’s happening in the rest of world. That’s especially true in the case of China, where President Xi Jinping has been pushing his nation to greater and quicker adoption and development of GM crops and animals.

As more farmworkers abandon rural China for cities and it becomes more difficult to produce good yields on polluted farmland, the desire of the Chinese government to jump head first into biotech waters is for real. The state-owned ChemChina has made its desires clear by trying to buy Syngenta. A few years ago, the company made a bid to buy Dow AgroSciences. 

The acceleration of biotech adoption by the Chinese has been fueled by the populations’ increased prosperity. Folks with more cash in their billfold are more apt to buy a steak or a bucket of chicken. That means an increased need for grains to grow the animals out. The government’s calculation is easy to sum up: GM crops mean easier ways to combat pests and weeds and GM food animals can pile on the pounds much quicker while consuming less grain.

But it isn’t just food animals China is moving to genetically modify. Reports have surfaced that the country has invested some $200 billion since 2005 to bolster its high-tech abilities.

A Global Risk Insights story says a Chinese company, in conjunction with one from South Korea, is set to open the “world’s largest cloning facility” in 2016. “This enterprise is the not first collaboration (as the) companies previously teamed up to clone Tibetan mastiffs -- expensive boutique dogs which are considered status symbols in China.”

What is the new cloning collaboration planning to produce? “Once operational, the facility is slated to produce one million beef cattle embryos per year, as well as sniffer dogs and race horses,” the report continues. The companies “hope to profit from rising beef consumption in China, with their cloned products both meeting that demand, while also allowing China to reduce its reliance on foreign imports, thus improving food security. … The Chinese government appears to be more open than others to cloned products supplementing food production, as witnessed by the fact that currently many strawberries and bananas sold in China are cloned.”

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