Keywords: genetically modified organisms, GMOs, biotechnology, Bt cotton, technological risks, developmental risk society, China, genetically modified crops, developing countries, checks and balances, biosafety management, risk assessment, environmental risk, food security, international competition, civil society
A developmental risk society? The politics of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in China
Over the past years, China has grown to become one of the largest growers of genetically modified crops in the world. At the same time, international and domestic biotechnological corporations are attempting to conquer the domestic seed market. Some Western observers fear that the pressure of food security and increased international competition, coupled with a lack of civil society, might lead to the disregard of risks presented by genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In this paper, we attempt to probe the possibility of whether China might evolve into what we typify as a "developmental risk society" – a society in which government and science confronted with major development issues, disregard technological risks due to the absence of sufficient countervailing forces. We argue that the answer to this question is negative and demonstrate that current biotech politics in China actually features a complex dynamics with various checks and balances, while the State displays a deeply contradictory position towards biosafety management.