Foreign seeds cause worries over food safety

By Lan Lan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-29 09:30
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Foreign seeds cause worries over food safety

Farmers sow a crop in Pingluo county, Ningxia Hui autonomous region. [Zhang Bo / For China Daily]

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BEIJING - The aggressive expansion tactics adopted by foreign seed companies in China have increased concerns over the nation's food safety especially at a time when agricultural yields have been falling.

Though the situation is far from alarming, domestic seed companies need to wake up to the threat and build necessary safeguards to retain their market share, agricultural economists said on Wednesday.

Worries surfaced after prices of some agricultural products spiraled in the past few months, and also amid concerns that the prevailing weather vagaries will impact yields over the next few months.

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Though foreign seed companies have a presence in China, they are dominant only in the supply of non-staple seeds like tomato and pepper and hence not a major threat to food safety.

There are 35 foreign seed companies in China. Out of this five supply corn seeds, while the rest are involved with vegetable and flower seeds.

International seed companies have a limited market share in the staple seeds market especially in grains like wheat, corn and rice, said Xu Xiaoqing, a rural economic expert with the Development Research Center of the State Council.

Foreign corn seeds account for just 10 percent of the overall maize market in the nation, Hu Ruifa, a researcher at the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told China Daily.

"Foreign seed companies are gaining ground, but that does not mean they are a threat to grain safety yet," said Hu.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc is one of the foreign seed companies in the corn market. The US company has increased the area under Xianyu 335 corn seed cultivation to 40 million hectares this year.

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