citizens protest ChemChina-Syngenta deal amid GMO
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[April 08, 2016]
By Niu Shuping and David Stanway
BEIJING (Reuters) - Around 400 Chinese
citizens have signed a letter to protest the purchase of Swiss-based
seeds and pesticides company Syngenta by state-owned ChemChina, saying
the deal would eventually lead to genetically modified crops being sown
across swathes of the country.
Critics of genetically modified organisms argue the technology poses
risks to public health and the environment, while advocates say such
fears have not been scientifically proven and that high-yielding
genetically altered crops would help ensure food security as the
world's population grows.
Although relatively few people signed the letter, it marks a rare
example of open opposition to state-supported corporate strategy in
a nation where the government often clamps down hard on any
It also underscores fears among some of the public that the
government is gearing up to gradually loosen laws that prevent the
cultivation of any GM varieties of staple food crops, with Beijing
already permitting the import of some GMO crops for use in animal
The $43 billion all-cash deal unveiled in February is the largest
foreign acquisition ever by a Chinese firm as China is looking to
secure food supplies for its population. Syngenta has a portfolio of
top tier chemicals and patent-protected seeds, many of which are
"The acquisition of Syngenta and the promotion of its
genetically-modified and agro-chemical agriculture in the country
would destroy the country's own agriculture and food security," the
protesters said in the letter, seen by Reuters. They argue GMO
strains would contaminate Chinese staple crops.
"ChemChina must immediately stop the suicidal acquisition from
causing a disaster to the Chinese nation."
Syngenta did not respond to requests for comment. A ChemChina
spokesman said he had heard about the letter and that the company
was waiting to learn more about it.
Yang Xiaolu, one of the protesters on the list, said the letter was
handed over late last month to the State-owned Assets Supervision
and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC), which
overseas companies owned by the central government.
A SASAC spokeswoman said her office had not yet seen the letter, but
was looking into the matter.
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Yang, a long-time anti-GMO activist, is also among the three
plaintiffs who were taking China's Ministry of Agriculture to court
in April last year in a bid to make public a toxicology report
supporting the approval of Monsanto's popular weed killer.
Reuters was unable to verify other names listed on the anti-GMO
China's commerce ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said in February
that the ministry supported the acquisition which would help secure
global food supply.
The protest comes amid worries that Beijing is losing control over
the supervision of GMO technology.
Last month, agriculture minister Han Changfu admitted that GMO corn
was illegally grown in some parts of the country, but found "no
large areas of illegal planting" after Greenpeace said a majority of
samples taken from corn fields in 5 counties in Liaoning province,
tested positive for GMO contamination.
(Reporting by Niu Shuping and David Stanway; Editing by Joseph
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