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New Gene Bank Investment of Over 300 Million Yuan
The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is working with local government on plans to invest at least 300 million yuan (US$36 million) on an initiative to establish four new major gene banks as repositories of rare plant material.

A party of international botanists recently made a HSBC Bank sponsored visit to the CAS Botanical Gardens in Beijing. They were there to exchange expertise in biological diversification.

Senior sources at CAS spoke of plans to save 20,000 rare and endangered plants worldwide. This is to be achieved through a process known as “plant migration.” The head of the Biological Bureau at CAS reported that in addition to participation in the international cooperative plan, CAS has invested 150 million yuan (US$18 million) and the local governments involved have provided a further 200 million yuan (US$24). These funds have been mainly for the construction of the facilities to house the gene banks.

The largest gene bank facility is reportedly being built in the Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Xishuangbanna in southwest China’s Yunnan Province. This will preserve genetic material from some 8,000 to 10,000 rare plants. In addition, CAS has key construction work under way at its botanical gardens in Wuhan, Guangzhou and Beijing.

The Beijing Botanical Garden will specialize in plants and herbs from temperate zones. Potential for application in the field of sandstorm prevention will be a particular feature of this collection.

Twelve botanical gardens attached to CAS have already started to cooperate with other botanical gardens around the country to save rare plants. They plan to preserve 75 percent of their local plants in the newly built gene banks.

Zhu Zhen, deputy director of the CAS Bureau of Life Science and Biotechnology cited the examples of China’s super hybrid rice originating from a roadside “weed” and genetically-modified soybean in the United States depending on plant material from China.

The natural resource residing in a single plant’s genetic material might well influence the rise and fall of an industry or even the fate of a nation.

(China.org.cn by Wang Qian, November 25, 2002)

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