New Zealand producers and consumers were represented at an inaugural event in China that paves the way to address common issues for a safer food supply for people in the Chongqing protectorate, one of the largest cities in the world with a population of 34 million.
Claire Bleakley president of GE Free New Zealand was among the international invitees that included Brendan Hoare from Organic Systems NZ, Professor Emeritus Kim Sung-Hoon, Chairman of the Citizens movement for Environmental Justice and former Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in South Korea, Professor Gu Xiulin PhD in Agricultural Economics at the Centre for Social and Economic Studies at Yunnan University, Mr Chen I-Wen Consultant for the China Association for Disaster Prevention and National Committee Members.There were also many scholars and researchers who were part of the Chongqing Public Security Bureau's legal forensic team and gene crisis research team, who attended the meeting chaired by the assistant Mayor of Chongqing, Mr Wang Lijun.
The symposium featured presentations covering issues to do with consumer concerns on GMO in the food chain, the impact on farmers and the environment, and potential health problems from long term use of GMO’s. These concerns have gained global attention as food security, food safety and the integrity of the supply chain have been impacted by global trade in food. There is growing concern internationally about lobbying by some sectors of the biotechnology industry aimed at undermining regulation and denying consumer choice.
Speakers from different countries reported similar findings of consumer rejection of GM food, poor crop performance and health issues. It was concerning to hear the field mice are dying-out in areas that grow GE crops, which is another example of how GM crops and the chemicals used with them can destabilise local ecosystems.
Regulatory corruption was also noted as a major concern and part of an agenda to force in GE crops and have them approved in various Asian Countries such as Indonesia.
"What was clearly recognised that GM technology was counter culture to the Chinese way of life," says Brendan Hoare of the Journal of Organic Systems.
"The evidence collected by Chinese researchers and scholars was overwhelming that food security, sovereignty and equity are at stake."
"The event not only looked at risks, but solutions, and that's what I addressed. These are big questions but the answers are not only in their own intellectual capability but in the wisdom and culture that has served China's communities for millennia."
In the last few years China has faced scandals that have rocked its economy from contaminated milk, unacceptable levels of additives and pesticides, to illegal contamination of GMO’s in rice and cooking oil.
“ It was an amazing event and a first for China in its approach to the food safety and environmental issues of GMO’s facing consumers and farmers,” says Claire Bleakley from GE Free New Zealand.
“ Seeing such a strong concern for food safety for people and farmers was refreshing, especially as the New Zealand public have been so poorly served by our Food Safety Minister who is dragging the chain by not supporting GMO labelling and stringent safety measures around GE food. Minister Kate Wilkinson has just ticked through yet another GM product: 2,4-D corn into the food chain," says Mrs. Bleakley.