• Top view: A reaper works in a rice field in Tarim reclamation area of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Oct. 11, 2016.

Top view: A reaper works in a rice field in Tarim reclamation area of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Oct. 11, 2016. (Photo : Getty Images)

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because it has eight legs.

That could be the most recent answer to this old joke.

As the thought of raising chickens with eight legs still might haunt many Chinese citizens who think that such abnormality might be possible when it comes to genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, the government, on the other hand, grooms itself to be a major player in GMOs, with no less than President Xi Jinping pushing for it, reported The New York Times.

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“We can’t let big foreign companies dominate our G.M.O. crops market,” said Xi in a 2013 speech.

The move by state-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina) to acquire Swiss agriculture and biotechnology company Syngenta for a cool $43 billion affirms the country’s plans to produce and market GMO products on a global scale.

Qin Zhongda, who once served as Chemical Industry Minister and as vice chairman of the committee on environmental protection, “strongly,” as quoted by The Paper, opposes the purchase, according to Sixth Tone.

Nearly 460 people signed--Qin signed first--a letter addressed to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council to express disapproval.

The letters describes the pending deal as “suicidal” and a “disaster.”

If Qin would rely on scientific journals and similar literature to educate himself with GMOs as he revealed in his interview with The Paper, the public could sometimes be swayed by unfounded online reports.

In 2015, many Chinese citizens possibly believed the allegations they read via popular instant messaging platform WeChat about KFC’s purportedly genetically modified chickens having six wings and eight legs.

American fast-food company Yum! Brands sued the three Chinese companies who used WeChat to post the said claims that its fried-chicken chain KFC was raising unimaginable breed of chickens, reported Reuters.

It appears that the government needs to disseminate more information about GMOs to create a better public awareness--and eventually, acceptance.

People Versus Government

With only 7-9 percent of its land remaining arable plus climate change, heavy pollution, rapid urbanization and growing population to deal with, China considers relying on GMOs to increase yields.

Bruce Babcock, an agricultural economist and a professor at Iowa State University, said to business site Marketplace that through biotechnology, crops could be drought-resistant.

As the government acknowledges the necessity for GMOs, the public continues to express dissenting views.

Many Chinese simply don’t like GMOs.

The recent food scandal that hit the country in September regarding falsified reports on GMOs only intensified public frustration, according to Bloomberg.

People likewise raise safety concerns towards GMOs.

To Eat, or Not to Eat GMOs, That Is the Question

GMOs are organisms--animals, plants, microorganisms--whose DNA or genetic makeup were modified or altered by humans through the use of scientific methods, such as biotechnology and genetic engineering.

Throughout the years, reputable organizations have affirmed the safety of genetically engineered plants or transgenic crops, according to the 2016 report, “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects” by the Washington, D.C.-based The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

In 2014, the World Health Organization said, “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

For the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in a 2012 statement: “Crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”

“To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population,” said the National Research Council way back in 2004.

One Chilean non-profit organization, which exists “to inform and educate on agricultural biotechnology, with clear, transparent and backed by scientific studies and/or reliable sources,” according to its website, likewise promotes support for GMOs.

“The current scientific consensus states that the risks of food products derived from GM crops are essentially the same as those of conventional crops,” said Gremial ChileBIO CropLife Association or ChileBIO.

For many intellectuals--Nobel Prize recipients to be exact--biotechnology contributes to crop improvement.

As of Oct. 24, Support Precision Agriculture, “the official site of the Nobel Laureates pro-GMO campaign,” already gathered 121 signatures from Nobel Laureates in medicine, chemistry, physics, economics, literature and peace.

On a letter dated June 29, 2016 and addressed to non-governmental environmental group Greenpeace, the United Nations and all countries, the signatories “urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against ‘GMOs’ in general.”

The site gives three reasons why GMOs should be supported: “GMOs are safe, green and especially important for small farmers.”

As it appears that the government is quite convinced on the benefits it could derive from GMOs, it should now perhaps begin planting more information about genetically modified crops on the minds of the people to harvest greater public trust.