China has taken the lead among developing countries in the research of genetically modified (GM) plants, an expert has said.
China has been investing 100 million US dollars per year in the research of biotechnological plants since the beginning of this century, and the sum is expected to reach more than 500 million US dollars in 2005, said Shen Guifang, executive deputy director of China High-tech Industrialization Association and researcher of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
At present, more than 60 versions of GM plants are approved for field trials and release, including China's staple crops -- rice, maize and wheat, as well as cotton, potato, tomato, soybean, peanut and rape, she said at the "Forum of Industrial Innovation and Agriculture Industrialization" held recently in Yinchuan,capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
More than 30 versions of GM tomato, cotton, petunia and pimiento have been approved for commercial production. The leading GM plant in China is pest-resistant cotton covering 66 percent of cotton-growing areas, Shen said.
China developed 47 GM plants in 1996, including almost all the main food and forage plants. It has examined and approved 26 GM plants in terms of safety between 1997 and 1999, including 16 of pest-resistant type, nine of antiviral type and one of quality-improved type.
China ranks the fifth -- behind the United States, Argentina, Canada, Brazil - in the amount of genetically modified crops, said a World Health Organization report in June. Last year it had 3.70 million hectares planted, 5 percent of the total transgenic crop area of the world.