Chinese Take Out Genes
With over 20,000 people employed in research positions and as much as $1.5 billion in funding through 2005, China is second only to the U.S. in its dedication to developing genetically modified (GM) crops. The rest of Asia is following its lead, with India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia dedicating billions of dollars to research and millions of acres to biotech crops. Aware of concerns in the international market (and particularly in the European Union) about the safety of GM food, most crops being grown in Asia are non-edible (think cotton and flowers) and hence less controversial. But food won’t be far behind: Asian scientists are currently experimenting with everything from papaya to chili peppers. Critics say a GM food boom in Asia could deprive consumers around the world of choices in what they buy and eat, and they are pushing for unified international policies on regulations, labeling, and trade.