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Who Are the World's Guinea Pigs? (3)

27 June 2011

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The Battle between A Native Chinese and An Alien Fish

It all began when one day last year the man named Guo Chenglin (郭成林), a Shenyang native working in Beijing, posted a short article on China's most popular online forum Titled 金龙鱼,一条祸国殃民的鱼 (Arawana, A Fish that Wrecks the Nation and Harm the People). The following is the excerpt of the article and English translation:






The company puts a banner ad "1:1:1" to let consumers know it promotes the concept of healthy eating, but this foreign business lied to 1.3 billion Chinese. Through misleading advertising it sold 40 billion bottles of Arawana cooking oil and has almost dominated the entire China's edible oil market.

First of all, let's examine how Arawana oil becomes so successful in China: It's all because it has a global GM soybean supply train! The company grows GM soybeans and GM herb in South America, and makes money through international futures trade. The beans and the herb are then transported to China to make animal feed with the residue to be turned into cooking oil and sold in tens of millions of Chinese supermarket outlets. Sadly Chinese consumers do not have a habit to check the list of ingredients of the cooking oil they purchased! Europe and Japan do not allow GMO to be used for human consumption, for fear of potential harm done to their people! The damage of GMO to human health ( is a slow process and will become apparent in future generations! Mules are an artificial species created through the crossbreeding between horses and donkeys, as the result mules do not possess reproductive capability. Please consider what the GM oil might do to you.

Second, the cost of producing GM foods is very low. The dump of GMOs by overseas companies in Chinese market has already destroyed China's soybean business in the northeast region, and our black soil in Heilongjiang Province fertile for the world's best soybeans has already been colonised by US GM plants! The soymilk that we drink daily are almost exclusively made of GMO!

Third, Arawana-brand oil is extracted from the soybeans using chemical leaching method! The advantage of this technique is its high commercial yielding, which reduce the cost, but the problem is it will produce two harmful substances: lead/mercury residues and Trans fatty acid - both could cause cancer. About 70 percent of Arawana's blend oil is processed through chemical leaching, even newly marketed Arawana Deep Sea Fish Oil has chemical leached soybean oil as its main components!

The language used in the post might be a bit too strong, but can Wilmar Ltd reject the accusations made by Mr Guo?

Mr Guo said that Arawana's domination of China's oil market contributes greatly to the demise of local high-quality organic soybean business.

Here are two pieces of news from China's state-run media Chinadaily:

Soybean imports squeeze market share (by Cheng Yingqi)

Genetically modified (GM) soybean imports have been nibbling away at China's soybean market for years. Now Northeast China's Heilongjiang province is being particularly hard hit.

Heilongjiang used to produce high-quality soybeans, with farmers selling more than 60 percent of their crop before the Spring Festival but less than 2 percent of soybeans have been sold so far this year (2010).

Instead, the lower priced GM soybeans are taking control of the market.

According to China News Service, the disparity in price has forced 68 medium-sized soybean-processing enterprises in Heilongjiang to stop production.

GM oil takes more than 80 percent of the market, said an industry insider.

In 2004, international tycoons made use of futures trading to drive soybean prices up to 4,300 yuan ($630) per ton. In fear of further price rises, Chinese oil refinery enterprises bought 3 million tons of soybeans from the United States.

Later on, the price of soybean fell to 3,100 yuan per ton, resulting in the closure of 50 percent of Chinese oil refineries. International companies then took 60 percent of Chinese oil refinery companies under their control.

In 2005, they aimed for non-GM soybean refinery companies. International companies purchased China's non-genetically modified soybean-oil at a high price and sold them out at a price even cheaper than GM oil.

"Our non-genetically modified soybean-oil deserves a good price. But the international companies have dropped the purchase price for evil purposes," Tian Renli, president and general manager of Jiusan Oil and Fat Company, one of China's top 500 enterprises, was quoted as saying by China News Service.

In 2005, non-GM oil sold at 35 yuan a barrel in supermarkets, while GM oil sold at 56 yuan, Tian said.

This was a vital strike to China's non-GM oil refinery companies. Till 2006, half of Northeast China's oil refinery plants were either shut down or out of business.

By the end of 2008, the General Administration of Customs warned that foreign capital is sharpening its control of food production, especially in terms of non-GM soybeans.

GM soybeans hurt bean production in NE China

Farmers in China's Heilongjiang province are losing faith in soybean production because of growing imports of genetically modified varieties of the foodstuff.

Some working the land in the nation's main soybean supply base have given up growing the produce entirely.

China's soybean imports increased 16.2 percent year-on-year to 30.76 million tons in the first seven months, according to the latest China's customs statistics.

China consumes about 10 million tons of soybean oil and about 40 million tons of soybean meal per year, more than 80 percent of which is imported or made from imported GM soybeans.

"The dual standards in trade policy failed to provide an equal competition platform for the domestic industry. It stimulated more imports instead of protecting the domestic industry," Fan said.

Generally, countries that don't allow production of GM crops, also prohibit the importing of GM crops.

So far, China has yet to approve GM crop production but the nation imports more than 40 million tons of soybeans per year from countries such as the United States, Brazil and Argentina that mainly grow GM soybeans.

"We are not willing to cultivate GM soybeans even if we could. There are still many uncertainties about GM food and it contradicts our vision of building a green and natural ecology." said Zhang Honglei, an official of Heilongjiang Beidahuang Group, the biggest agriculture group in Heilongjiang.

Competition from outside is "cruel" and the industry needs more protection from the government, Zhang added.

Both American and European countries adopt various measures to protect their own soybean industries. These include subsidies or lifting tariffs on imports, as well as non-trade methods such as the prohibition of imported GM food, said analysts.

Mr Guo is a Northeast native, and it is understandable that he may know more details about the subject and feel deeper pain when seeing his people are beaten flat by foreign multinationals. Can Wilmar deny its role in this market manipulation that results in the collapse of Chinese soybean and oil businesses?

Mr Guo said Arawana oil is made of GM soybeans.

This is the list of ingredients on the package of Arawana oil sold in Chinese supermarkets. It confirms that not only the soybeans, but the herb seeds Arawana products used are GMOs.

Can Wilmar Ltd declare that the list of ingredients on Arawana oil packages is fake?

Mr Guo said Arawana oil is processed by chemical leaching with residues that could cause cancer. Wilmar admitted the oil is leached and the leaching does produce harmful residues. Despite it also insists the amount of the residues remained does not affect the oil to meet China's food safety requirements, however, producers do have a responsibility to address the concerns raised by consumers, don't they? Can Wilmar explain why instead of presenting convincing evidences to support its claim, it has worked to prosecute the man who expressed his distrust for their products?

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