China will accelerate development of its own genetically modified (GMO) crops, seeking to secure food security and international competitiveness, an official from the country's Ministry of Agriculture said.
The official from the Ministry's biosafety administration office also denied recent media reports that China had already approved imported GMO grain seeds for widespread planting. His remarks were published by state media on Wednesday.
"The Ministry of Agriculture has never approved any genetically-modified grain seeds for planting in the country, and there are no GMO grain crops being planted within the country," said the unnamed official.
The GMO cotton, soy, maize and rapeseed approved for import into China were "restricted to use as raw materials for processing," but not for planting, said the official.
But the official also described hopes that China will be a leading player in international competition to create and grow its own GMO crops that are resistant to pests and diseases.
"Accelerating technical research on GMO crops and their application and healthy development will provide a vigorous scientific support for the sustainable development of China's agriculture," said the official, in the interview that also appeared on the ministry's website.
Developing GMO strains was important for both international competitiveness and ensuring China's food security, said the official.
China approved the safety of the insect-resistant Bt strain of rice and phytase corn last November, opening the door to widespread planting of the GMO grain crops, within about three years. [ID:nSP364484]
A survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) showed that Bt rice could cut pesticide use by as much as 80 percent and save labour costs for farmers, boosting net income by $72 per hectare.
More than 20 GMO crops have been approved for field trials, including wheat, soybean and rapeseed, according to the CAS report published last month.
China's largest feed mill, the New Hope Group, said the company was supporting GMO corn, which could help China produce enough grain to meet rising demand for animal protein.
"I think GMO technology is a good thing... It can resolve the problem of grain supply for food, for animal feed and industry on limited farmland," said its chairman, Liu Yonghao, on Tuesday.
"We have no choice, either we import large quantities of corn or grow GMO corn. I think the government will choose to grow GMO corn," said Liu.