Daily News Archive
From February 6, 2002

China Second to U.S. in Plant Biotechnology

Outside of North America, China is developing the most genetically engineered (GE) crops and at a quick pace, finds a recent survey published in the January 25, 2002 issue of Science (vol. 295, no. 5555, pp. 674-676). Although the U.S. has been studying plant biotechnology much longer than China, China has already licensed 65 of the 141 GE plants the Chinese research institutes have been researching, whereas the U.S. has approved less than 50.

In 1999, China spent $112 million on plant biotechnology, second only to the U.S. who spends about $2 to $3 billion a year. India and Brazil fall right behind the U.S. and China in their plant biotechnology investments, spending around $15 million. The government funds all of China's plant biotechnology research.

In 2000, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), along with six foreign academies (Brazil, China, India and Mexico, the Royal Society of London and the Third World Academy of Sciences), urged the increased development and use of GE crops to solve hunger and poverty problems in developing nations. Scott Rozelle, an agricultural economist from the University of California, Davis and one of the authors of the study found that China is working on genetically engineering peanuts, potatoes, rice and wheat crops.

While supporters of biotechnology claim that it is an important tool for farmers in developing nations, providing them with more nutritious, drought-resistant crops, opponents cite food allergies, increased pesticide use, genetic pollution, and loss of indigenous knowledge as reasons to halt this agricultural takeover.

Environmentalists find it difficult to believe that the industry that developed terminator seeds, a technology that renders second generation seed sterile, and Round-Up resistant crops, GE plants specifically designed to be doused with large quantities of herbicides, could be concerned with the health of the developing world. According to Genetically Engineered Food Alert, 71% of all GE field crops are engineered to be herbicide resistant, and 22% are modified to contain pesticides within their cells.

For more information, contact Beyond Pesticides.