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China Favours GMOs, But None Grown Yet

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 Mar. 3.

“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

South Africa Maize Farmers Urge U-Turn On Biofuels

South African farmers want the government to allow the use of maize in biofuels production in order to ease energy costs and help make cultivation profitable, an industry official said Feb. 26.

The government unveiled blending ratios for biofuels three years ago but said maize, South Africa’s staple food, could not be used in the production of biofuels in order to ensure food security and keep a lid on high prices.

It urged farmers to boost output to considerably more than South Africa’s food needs if they wanted maize in the biofuels plan.

“If you look at our production levels now over the past few years I think there’s room for us to use maize for biofuels,” Neels Ferreira, chairman of grain farmers’ grouping Grain SA told Reuters on the sidelines of an agriculture conference.

South Africa has managed surplus maize output for the past two seasons, in which local producers have harvested over 12 million tonnes of the grain.

The Crop Estimates Committee (CEC) said last week it expects this season’s output to reach about 12.88 million tonnes, which would be the country’s biggest harvest in about 29 years.

South Africans consume between eight million to nine million tonnes of the staple each year.

“Our position is that apart from helping with the issue of profitability for farmers, using maize in biofuels (production) would also ease the energy costs that we have in the country. It’s definitely something they should reconsider,” Ferreira said.

Brazil Details U. S. Cotton Retaliation

Brazil has detailed its planned retaliation against the United States over U. S. cotton subsidies but said Washington still had a chance to settle the trade dispute through negotiations.

The Brazilian government published a list of 100 U. S. goods March 8 subject to import tariffs that will go into effect in 30 days. The list includes a tariff increase on cars to 50 per cent from 35 per cent, a rise on wheat tariffs to 30 per cent from 10 per cent, and a 48 per cent levy on milk powder, up from 28 per cent. Cotton and cotton products would be charged 100 per cent import tariff.

The World Trade Organization gave Brazil the go-ahead last year to impose sanctions on U. S. imports after ruling the U. S. government spent too much subsidizing cotton farmers and on an export credit guarantee program.

The Office of the U. S. Trade Representative (USTR) said: “USTR has worked to reach a solution to the issues in this dispute without Brazil resorting to countermeasures and we continue to prefer a negotiated solution.”

The trade dispute began in 2002 and is one of the few in which the WTO allowed cross-retaliation – that clears the way for the wronged party to retaliate against a sector not involved in the case.

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