August 5, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Reuters, 08/03/04: China
was likely to approve the planting of biotech rice in
the next year or two, potentially starting a global
stampede for genetically modified crops, including wheat,
the author of a report on Chinese agriculture said.
Commercial versions of rice and wheat are not on the
market, although research was under way in a number
of countries. Biotech varieties of corn, cotton and
soybeans are popular in the United States, but have
met resistance in some areas such as Europe.
Monsanto Co._(MON.N: Quote, Profile, Research) , a
U.S. biotech pioneer, said in May it would not introduce
the world's first biotech wheat because of widespread
opposition to tinkering with a key food crop.
Scott Rozelle, an agricultural economist at the University
of California-Davis who focuses on China's farm sector,
said China was in the fifth year of field trials of
"We're fairly confident that, within one or two
years, they will" commercialize insect-resistant
rice, Rozelle said at a presentation sponsored by the
International Institute on Economics.
Rozelle wrote a policy analysis on Chinese agriculture
for the institute with Dan Rosen, a consultant on Asian
economic development, and Jikun Huang, an economics
professor in China.
"Almost certainly," China will follow gene-altered
rice with the release of biotech wheat and corn, said
Biotech crops typically have a special gene inserted
to help a growing plant fight destructive insects, or
to tolerate a herbicide product known as Roundup.
In May, the head of the International Rice Research
Institute said it would be three to five years before
the first biotech rice crop was grown. China, India
and the Philippines were running field tests, he said.
India also was conducting field trials of biotech mustard,
potato and cauliflower. It approved transgenic cotton
Chinese adoption of GMO rice and other crops could
prompt other countries to approve biotech varieties
as well to remain competitive with varieties credited
with a 20 percent increase in productivity.
"This is another way China is going to have a
big impact on world trade," said Rozelle. In their
policy analysis, "Roots of Competitiveness: China's
Evolving Agriculture Interests," Rosen, Rozelle
and Huang said most of China's 250 million farm families
would benefit from freer world trade in agriculture.
Because of that, China could support smaller farm subsidies
and removal of trade barriers during ongoing world trade
talks, said Rosen.
About 20 million Chinese farm families, mostly inland
growers of corn, cotton and soybeans, would suffer an
overall 7 percent loss in income from freer trade, the
report said. Trade rules give China enough latitude
to make up the loss through direct aid or other steps.