September 30, 2011

 

GM corn may help China's corn supply

 

 

China's vice agriculture minister has raised biotechnology as a possible solution to the country's corn supply issues.

 

Chen Xiaohua described genetic engineering as "the strategic choice of the country in future", as China struggles to meet corn demand inflated by increased consumption of pork among rising wealth in the population.

 

However, the single domestically-developed strain of GM corn that had been granted a biosafety certificate two years ago has yet to become commercially available, according to Chen.

 

"We have approved one type of strain and we're testing to see if they can be applied to boost production," Chen said.

 

Genetically modified crops that China has already approved for commercial cultivation include tomatoes, papaya, sweet peppers, petunias, and poplar trees, as well as cotton modified for insect resistance.

 

The insect-resistant cotton is estimated to be two-thirds of the domestic sowings of the fibre, but the other GM varieties of crops have failed to achieve popularity. There have been controversies over the technology, especially for crops involved in the food chain.

 

For corn, China has approved imports of several biotech varieties, but have not cleared these varieties for planting.

 

Chen said that China, the world's second-biggest producer and consumer of corn after the US, would need to make "great efforts to balance supply and demand" in corn.

 

China's yearly corn planting area is about the same as the US, but manages only half of the yield.

 

Chen also played down talks of importing more US corn.

 

"Last year China did import some corn from abroad but that was mainly due to a price differential that made corn imports attractive," Chen said, citing customs data showing a 26% fall in corn imports, year on year, in the January-July period.