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New potato center to help global agriculture research
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China will soon set up a potato research center for the Asia-Pacific region.

The move shows the world's biggest producer and consumer of the tuber is committed to spending more on global agricultural research.

The new center will be part of Peru-based International Potato Center, one of 15 under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Most of the 15 centers were set up in the 1960s and 1970s with funds from industrialized countries.

CGIAR Director Wang Ren sees the government's "increased commitment" as a sign of its responsible role in helping reduce global poverty and improve human development. The renowned agricultural scientist assumed his post in the Washington-based research alliance in July.

"The new center, approved by the State Council, shows China's political willingness to share its advanced agricultural knowledge with the rest of the world," Wang told China Daily.

With instructions from Premier Wen Jiabao, the central government has already approved funding for the new sub-center, said Zhang Lubiao, international cooperation director of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which is likely to help set up the center.

"But we have met some procedural problems before the plan sees the light of the day," Zhang said.

China became a member of the research alliance in 1984, and seven centers have set up liaison offices in China since then. "Two more will open shop in Beijing soon."

The cooperation has yielded good results. An estimated 95 percent of the hybrid rice varieties now grown in China have CGIAR parental material. "Cooperation-88," an aptly named potato developed by CGIAR with Chinese partners, has helped the country become the world's largest potato producer and consumer.

"Despite the many positive progress, challenges facing agriculture and agricultural research have not been met," Wang said. The creation of sustainable, equitable and socially responsible development remains high on China's development agenda.

To further intensify the cooperation, the Washington-based research alliance organized its annual conference in Beijing that starts today, with more than 1,000 scientists from across the world expected to attend the two-day event.

Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences Vice-President Zhang Lijian said China will share its expertise to ensure global grain security.

(China Daily December 3, 2007)

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