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2-Plants: China intends to push for GM crop studies

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  China intends to push for GM crop studies
SOURCE: Xinhua, China
DATE:   14 Feb 2006

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China intends to push for GM crop studies

China will work towards finding wider applications of agricultural
biotechnology in the next five years because the sector's growth is
important to the country's overall development, China Daily reported on

The country has already worked out its biotech development strategy for
the 11th Five-Year Development Program period (2006-2010), the English
newspaper quoted Qi Chengyuan, director of the High and New Technology
Department under the National Development and Reform Committee, as saying.

The strategy includes efforts to develop the biotechnological seeding of
major crops, also called genetically modified (GM) crops, said the paper.

China will also increase its investment in safety monitoring. A more
comprehensive and accurate safety evaluation is required for the further
commercialization of GM crops.

In genetic modification, genes from outside sources, often from other
kinds of crops or bacteria, are transplanted into the crop. The process
has been proved effective for increasing insect resistance, salt and
drought tolerance, and anti-herbicide and anti-crop disease traits.

The most frequently used outside gene is derived from a bacterium called
Bacillus thuringiensis, commonly called Bt, which makes cotton crops
produce a chemical that kills bollworms.

Agricultural biotechnology is the field in which Chinese research is
closest to its US counterpart, according to Zhu Zhen, a leading rice
scientist and deputy director of the Bureau of Life Science and
Biotechnology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

According to the China Bio-Industrial Report, released by China National
Centre of Biotechnology Development, the Ministry of Agriculture had
approved 585 GM plant experiments, including 154 environmental releases
and 48 pre-production trials, as of mid-2003, the China Daily reported.

The Chinese government approved the commercialization of GM cotton,
tomatoes, pimientos (Spanish pepper) and a species of morning glory in
the late 1990s.

Commercialized planting of Bt cotton was introduced in 1997. Today more
than 66 percent of China's fields devoted to growing cotton are that
type. Last September, Guo Sandui, a leading scientist of the Chinese
Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), successfully developed a new
hybrid variety of GM cotton that can not only kill worms, but also
increase output.

"If the hybrid variety of Bt cotton spreads across China, farmers can
save up to 10 billion yuan (1.2 billion U.S. dollars) per year," Guo was
quoted as saying.

GM planting has been spreading faster in developing countries. However,
China has remained cautious.

Last year, the State Agricultural GM Crop Bio-safety Committee,
technically the decision-making body for commercialization of GM planting
in China, was reshuffled.

The number of agricultural biotechnology scientists, who had dominated
the committee in the previous session, was changed, according to Peng
Yufa, a member of the GM crop bio-safety committee and chief scientist at
the CAAS biosafety research centre. Bio-safety and environmental
scientists have joined the new committee.

The plan is to establish local GM plant safety evaluation bases in cities
and provinces and more bio-safety evaluation laboratories independent of
the research teams that are developing GM varieties, a source close to
the Ministry of Agriculture who requested anonymity told China Daily.

One such bio-safety evaluation base was set up in late 2005 in Shanghai.

Also, more money will be spent on improving the equipment of GM crop
testing so that scientists can better monitor the possible floating of
the transplanted gene, such as the one modified by Bt, from the targeted
plants to the environment, the source added.

Zhu Zhen, the leading scientist to promote the commercialization of GM
rice, said he believed the new bio-safety committee and the increased
bio-safety investment will help increase the number of biotech
applications in agriculture.

"The better regulation of the GM plants is a good thing," Zhu said. "With
more bio-safety and environmental scientists joining the review team for
GM crops, the team will have more direct experience on the safety and
efficiency of GM technology."


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