Scientists yesterday urged government officials to speed up the application of biological technologies in agriculture to effectively deal with challenges in the sector.
The authorities should place more attention on making regulations and providing supervision in this endeavor in order to offset negative impacts brought on by the technologies.
"Only cutting-edge technologies, including genetic-modification methods, are solutions to both production efficiency and the environment," Chen Zhangliang, vice-president of Peking University, told yesterday's international agricultural workshop held in Beijing.
Chen said that in the next 30 years, China is projected to maintain a 40-50 percent increase in food consumption because of predicted strong economic growth.
However, a decline in arable land, water shortages, rapid population increases and less efficient irrigation systems are major obstacles hindering the further development of China's agriculture sector.
"Technology can make a difference," Chen said.
China's scientists have made some "impressive" achievements in biological technology research, and many experiments have shown that those technologies are applicable, according to Chen.
He also said that the application of trans-genetic technologies is a priority.
"Various tests across the world have shown that genetically-modified foods are safe; and over the last six years, more than 300 million people have used them safely," Chen said.
Huang Jikun, another renowned agricultural expert, shared Chen's views, explaining that those technologies can not only increase farmers' income but also improve their health because of a decreased use for pesticides.
Huang cited the gene Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which is used in cotton planting as an example. Genetic engineering was applied to plants in order to resist pest damage.
"Farmers who grew Bt cotton reduced their costs of production by 20-23 percent over non-Bt cotton, but those cottons are priced about the same," said Huang, director of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, which sponsored the three-day workshop.
The use of Bt cotton has substantially reduced pesticide pollution, and the incidence of farmers and laborers exposed to pesticides has been reduced. Therefore, pesticide-related poisonings have decreased as well, according to Huang.
"This technology is revolutionary and we should expand the applications while changing conventional farming practices," Huang said.
(China Daily 07/19/2001)