Long wary of consumer backlash against GMO crops, China is quickly, but quietly, embracing agricultural biotechnology to meet rising food demands and decrease foreign influence

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Luo Jinming, a 76-year-old farmer in Guiyang, capital of Southwest China’s Guizhou province. Credit: China Daily
Luo Jinming, a 76-year-old farmer in Guiyang, capital of Southwest China’s Guizhou province. Credit: China Daily

China has long developed higher-yielding varieties of rice and corn through crossbreeding. Nowadays, genetically modified organisms have become increasingly prevalent. Where crossbreeding can require multiple generations of planting to produce desired characteristics, that goal can be accomplished in a fraction of the time through GMO technology.

A poster child for that advancement is Yuan Longping High-tech Agriculture… It developed the Ruifeng 125 variety of GMO corn that is tough against weed killers and the fall army worm. In April, Ruifeng 125 received a safety certification to plant in China’s northwest region.

[One] obstacle was the strong resistance from consumers against GMO products. Since the 2000s, foreign non-governmental organizations and media outlets worldwide have voiced concern that GMO plants are being produced and distributed in China in secret.

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Last year, China imported 2.9 billion yuan ($450 million) worth of crop seeds, or three times the export.

To produce the Chinese staple foods of pork and poultry, a large amount of feed is essential. Without improving development capabilities, the country would need to rely on importing seeds and feed grain, leaving it exposed to the fallout from climate change or a newly emergent blight.

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