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China Has Found a Way to Detect GMOs

Photo:ctsenatedems/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Trying to reason another person's list of priorities is a task filled with frustration and futility. Everyone has certain reasons for doing certain things, but they're not reasons that are based in comprehensible logic. For example, despite understanding how sports fandom works, I still don't get how someone can spend upwards of $400 for one ticket to a game, especially a football game, where unless you're in the most expensive seat in the house, it's nearly impossible to see any of the action on the field. Plenty of people do it -- if they didn't, the ticket prices wouldn't reach those levels -- but it's never going to make sense to me. One person's priorities are another person's confusion.

Countries work the same way. For instance, China. For years, the government has essentially been looking the other way as the air pollution hit dangerous enough levels to kill 1.2 million people in 2010. So, you'd think the country would hold its citizens' health at a much lower priority than, say, profit and industry. But that's not always the case. In fact, China has become one of the most vocal opponents of GMOs in the world.

The murmurs began last December, when reports began to surface about the possibility of the country turning back shipments of GMO-laced corn. And then last week, they actually took the step of rejecting a few batches of distillers' grain from the U.S. because they contained GMOs. So it's fair to say, China does not like GMOs.

They hate them so much, in fact, they spent a whole lot of money developing the world's first all-GMOs-in-one test.

The problem before this specific test was developed was that GMO testing was costly, not very effective, and scientists could only detect one at a time. But now, with a device they've dubbed MACRO, regulators can examine a single food for all possible DNA fragments of GMO material. (You can get into the specific nitty gritty of how it works if you're so inclined, and I recommend doing so, because it's fascinating stuff.) No word yet on the cost of the test -- other than their goal is to eventually create a "cost-effective" version -- or whether they're trying to develop a consumer-grade version for people to use at home. But the main point of this news is that, once again, the U.S. is being left in the dust when it comes to GMO regulation.

It's not as if China has been the sole dissenter in a world in love with GMOs. They have plenty of company in the skeptical realm. The European Union has possibly been even more stringent against GMOs, voting to not allow a modified corn-based crop to be cultivated in Europe. And they also have the same worry as China when it comes to importing GMO-laced crops from America. In fact, it's almost as if we're the only world power not taking GMOs seriously.

Now, America has always been a stubborn nation. (Look no further than our hilarious 12-inch, foot-long ruler.) And part of that mentality is what makes us great, and has made us the country others have looked to for guidance over the past century. But in the realm of GMO regulation, we have been taking a back seat to everyone else. Rather than allowing Monsanto and friends to do whatever they please, the U.S. would be wise to look towards China as a shining example for how to develop worthwhile regulations for this bold, new, landscape-changing technology.

Until we do, we're no longer leaders of the global pack. Instead, we're dragging far behind.

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