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Chinese lead world in genetic rice research but government limits success

The GLP curated this excerpt as part of a daily selection of biotechnology-related news, opinion and analysis.

Angel or demon, transgenic crops have become one of the “frontier technologies” that China is determined to embrace.

In contrast to China’s usual modesty in academic matters, mainland scientists claim that genetically modified organisms, utilising recombinant DNA technology, is among the few fields in which China can claim to be globally competitive.

Genetically modified rice, in particular, is the achievement that China should be most proud of, they say. But they fear the government’s persistent hesitation to commercialise their successes could make China’s GM quest lose momentum.

A quarter of the world’s top research papers on rice have been written by Chinese researchers, said Yan Jianbing, a corn genomics researcher at Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan .

With vast funding and a big team, China was ready to bring to market an insect-resistant transgenic rice it developed on its own a decade ago, said Zhu Zhen, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Bureau of Life Sciences and Biotechnology.

But the government has chosen so far not to commercialise its GMO expertise as the technology remains controversial around the world and has triggered fierce debate at home.

“Public opinion remains unfavourable for the technology, and even now, the prospect for commercialisation is unclear,” Zhu said.

But in the government’s first policy directive this year, issued earlier this month, authorities called for improvements in safety management and public education on GM crops.

Read full original article: Genetically modified food in China: time to reap what scientists sow?

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