China stockpiling Genetically Modified Crops in event of a Future Agricultural crisis

378 Chinese groups employing thousands of scientists are engaged in Genetically Modified Crop research. The government will have spent some $4 billion on GMOs by 2020. Researchers are using the latest modification technologies and drawing from high-throughput genomic analysis of thousands of crop strains, accelerating the pace of discovery.

China is building a storehouse of genetically modified crop strains for future use.

* there are large scale field trials
* there are vast storehouses of GMO seeds
* billions are being spent on GMO research

Large-scale field trials are going on all over the country, but public data is scant. Two to three hours outside Beijing, a number of test fields of wheat have recently been harvested, Dafang Huang says. Work at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science includes planting drought-resistant varieties of wheat. Other Chinese institutions are making similar progress on drought-resistant corn, he adds. But like many of their colleagues across the country, the scientists feel that they must hide the locations of the trials. (They have reason to worry. Three years ago Australian Greenpeace activists destroyed a field of GM wheat plants; last year, activists in the Philippines destroyed a test plot of golden rice. Gao and Huang told me they worry that something similar could happen in China.) But while there is no central public repository of field trial data, Huang told me it was safe to assume that the plantings are widespread—and productive.

Even if China can increase yields by improving existing agricultural practices, as it probably can, Rozelle and other China watchers expect the country to approve GM corn at some point; the demand for corn for animal feed will become too urgent, and using the crop for animal feed is far less controversial than growing it for human consumption. Nobody knows when or to what extent China will begin deploying its GMO stockpile to feed its citizens. But few doubt that at some point, when costs rise and supply gets tighter, the government will decide it’s time to plant what it has been developing in its labs. And when that happens, given China’s centrally managed economy, farms and families can be expected to adopt the technology quickly. “Once the official attitude is changed, everything will be changed very soon,” says Huang. And in the decades to come, if one of the innumerable GMO strains sprouting in the labs of Gao and others should help get the nation through a mega-drought or pronounced heat wave, that fix might well seem museum-worthy to future curators of Chinese agricultural history.

SOURCES – Technology review

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