Against The Grain

In the light of rising food prices and grains security concerns, Chinese regulators are starting to shift their position on genetically modified crops.
While more than two-thirds of Chinese cotton fields are planted with genetically modified strains, the government has not approved GM rice for commercial cultivation despite expectations that it would have done so several years ago.
However, the soaring price of grains and food in 2007, coupled with the nation’s increasing difficulty in maintaining arable farmland, is causing a change in attitude among bureaucrats. Ensuring China is self-sufficient in grain production is a high priority for the government.
‘I feel that over the next few years, things will move more quickly than in the last few years,’ said Huang Jikun, director for the centre for Chinese agricultural policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
‘They have changed their ideas because they see the usefulness of technology for maintaining grain security, raising rural incomes and other policy goals,’ Huang said. ‘High food prices are influencing government considerations. Of course, they want technology that can help lower food prices.’
Chinese officials have not indicated when they may approve GM rice for commercial cultivation. National research is also being undertaken to develop strains of genetically modified corn, while research on soy and wheat is less advanced. Research has focused on ‘first generation’ varieties – that is, crops with only one modification for pest resistance or herbicide tolerance.

Bess Mucke

Environmental News Network

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