A papaya farmer in Macau. (Photo/Xinhua)
Agriculture specialists in Shanghai have recently confirmed allegations about Chinese papayas being genetically modified, according to the a report from the Party-run China Youth Daily.
Huang Dafang from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences' Biotechnology Research Institute, and Zhu Yi of the China Agricultural University's College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering, both acknowledged that the majority of papaya sold on the fruit market is genetically modified, according to the report.
Li Lei, a specialist in GM agricultural produce, said that papayas had to be genetically modified or they would have been wiped out in an epidemic that struck the harvest a decade ago. The modified strain are stronger and more resistant to disease.
"It is permissible in China and the US to grow genetically modified papayas, and Japan and Canada allow people to import the GM fruits," said Li.
Besides papaya, Chinese people are also exposed to genetically modified cotton, soy bean and their end products. There will also be genetically modified oranges in the future as the country's orchards are reportedly suffering from Citrus Huanglongbing, which causes the trees to dry up. Since there is no efficient remedy, the best way would be to modify their genes, according to Li.
Li said genetically modified products are not as dangerous as they have been portrayed, and are less harmful to health than pesticides used to spray crops otherwise less resistant to disease and pests. Other specialists believe that genetically modified products can trigger allergies, but views diverge on this issue.
The papayas sold in Shanghai mostly come from Hainan, Taiwan and Thailand. People in Shanghai don't have particularly exotic tastes in regards to fruit and prefer apples, pears and bananas, according to Yuan Yaxiang, the secretary general of Shanghai's fruit seller association.