Vietnam farmers to plant GM corn in 2011

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Following successful experiments, Vietnam is expected to start planting genetically-modified corn for commercial purposes in 2011, an agriculture professor said at a Monday conference in Ho Chi Minh City.


GM corn planted experimentally in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province in the south and Hung Yen Province in the north since November 2009 has proved more immune to pests than ordinary corn, and is not affected by weed killers, said Bui Chi Buu, head of the Institute of Agricultural Science for the Southern Region.


Buu said there was no difference in terms of habitat and biodiversity between the modified corn and the ordinary one. He was speaking at a conference on the future for biotechnology in Vietnam organized by the US Embassy in Hanoi and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.


The GMO corn will be planted in larger area of around tens of thousands of hectares in 2011 before every farmer is allowed to plant it.


Experts at the conference said Vietnam is losing nearly 59,000 hectares of arable land every year and rice fields have shrunk by 325,000 hectares. Adverse climate conditions were also affecting crop yield, they said.


Over the past many years, Vietnam has imported gene-modified corn and soybeans from the US, Brazil and Europe to process animal feed.


The experts recommended that the country quickly develops biotechnology in cultivating corn, soybeans, rice, potatoes, tomatoes and cotton. Failure to do so might cause food supply problems, they said.


Vietnam has managed to achieve food security at the national level, but not at the household level as many families in rural, mountainous areas are having to eat corn or cassava instead of rice, they said.


Reynaldo V. Ebora, director of the Philipines Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development, said at the conference that his country started to plant GMO corn in 2003 and the cultivation area has expanded to nearly 300,000 hectares.


Ebora said the yield from gene-modified corn is 37 percent higher than from ordinary corn. It saves around 60 percent of spending on pesticides and earns farmers up to 75 percent more money, he said.


In 2009, more than 14 million farmers from 25 countries in the world worked on 134 million hectares of gene-modified plants. The first GMO products were introduced to consumers in 1996.


The net profit from biotechnologies worldwide in 2008 is  estimated at US$9.2 billion, more than half of which was earmed by farmers in developed countries.

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