Wednesday, July 23, 2008

China to Focus on Genetically Modified Crop Development

China has concerned about the development of genetically modified crops as it faces mounting challenges to feed its 1.3 billion people due to shrinking arable land and climate change. China has newly approved plans aim to cultivate high-yielding and pest-resistant genetically modified species.

China has become a major producer of genetically modified cotton and vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers. However, it has yet to begin large-scale production of genetically modified rice, soybeans and corn.

Premier Wen Jiabao, Chinese leaders said the plans were "of strategic significance" in the country's drive to make its agricultural sector more competitive and efficient internationally. Moreover, he said departments must fully understand the urgency and importance of this significant project further improve the program and waste no time to fulfill the mission.

It gave no details on which crops should be developed. However, analysts said the plans were likely to focus on developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) including rice and corn.

China's cabinet has approved a mid- and long-term grain security plan, which aims to keep annual grain output above 500 million tonnes by 2010 and increase production to more than 540 million tonnes a year by 2020.

Wen informed a cabinet meeting China faces serious challenges in ensuring it will have enough grain to feed its population in the decades to come, climate change as two major problems and citing urbanization.

Huang Dejun, chief analyst with Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant firm, said the approval signaled China is attaching more importance to development of GMOs and has made it a national strategy. Moreover, Huang said given the shortage in resources like arable land and water and increasing population, GMO is vital for the country's agriculture output.

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