Yuan Longping, dubbed “Father of Hybrid Rice” in China, looks at his super hybrid rice in an experimental fi eld in Changsha, Hunan province. XINHUA
China’s rice output is No 1 in the world, accounting for 33 percent. China currently produces approximately 500 million tons of rice annually. With its population expected to grow to 1.6 billion by 2020, 630 million tons of rice will be needed.
China is investing more than 20 billion yuan (US$3 billion) in genetically modified crops and research. Officials said that by 2020, the country could be a leader in genetically modified foods, cloning, large-scale transgenic technology and new breed promotion. Rice and corn are the foods nearest commercialization.
Chinese technologies in genes transfer rice also have a leading role and one type of genetically modified corn, developed by Fan Yunliu, a fellow of the China Agricultural Science Institute, has huge market potential.
The Chinese government is considering putting genetically modified corn and rice into commercial production. If planted, the growing of genetically modified rice would benefit 110 million farmers, adding $100 to the net income of each household.
China has launched a big project to cultivate new genetically modified plants with the purpose of obtaining a series of projects with application value and autonomous intellectual property rights. This project is to develop new genetically modified genes that produce increased yields of high quality plants that are pest-resistant.
China will breed its own high-yield seeds and set up large seed companies to help ensure the country’s food security in coming decades. The State Council, China’s cabinet, said in a statement that the world’s largest grain producer aims to breed new seeds using China’s own biotechnology and set up large seed-breeding bases by 2020.
Scientists said the move may work against the expansion plans of foreign companies such as DuPont (DD.N) that have taken a large share of China’s corn seed market.
“The country will focus development on hybrid rice and corn — particularly corn, where Pioneer already has a large share of the market and domestic seed firms are failing to compete,” said one Chinese seed-breeding scientist. “The government’s concerns are grain security and how to boost farmers’ incomes.
Scientists said genetically modified (GMO) seeds would not be a priority for Beijing for at least five years. Public debate over the safety of GMO food coupled with a long approval process meant China may not rush to use GMO seeds widely in the near term.
“(Development of) non-GMO seeds will still play a key role in boosting grain production in the coming five years,” Huang Dafang, a researcher with the Biotechnology Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science.
So China will roll out genetically modified rice and corn after 2013 from domestic seeds on a large scale.
Two varieties, called Huahui 1 and Bt Shanyou 63, received clearance and should be launched within the next two years. Both contain “Bt” proteins from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium to protect them against the rice stem borer, the most serious rice pest in China