Business / Industries

Reform to benefit the seed industry

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily) Updated: 2012-04-24 09:50

China's new round of agricultural science and technology reforms will begin with steps to commercialize the seed industry in the country, Zhang Laiwu, deputy minister of science and technology, said on Monday.

From 2006 to 2010, the central government allocated 1.64 billion yuan ($260 million), together with another 900 million yuan raised by local governments and the private sector, for research on the breeding of crops, vegetables, fruit trees, livestock and aquaculture.

Even so, Zhang said China's seed industry is in an "unfavorable situation".

Most breeding technologies remain in laboratories in colleges and research institutions and offer producers few means of making profits, Zhang said at a news conference organized by the State Council Information Office in Beijing.

China is home to thousands of breeding companies, most of which are too small and weak to provide high-quality seeds, he said.

Zhang said a sound market can give the agricultural industry a great boost. "And first we should set an example in the breeding industry."

The centers of innovation will move from scientific institutions to businesses, a transition that will take at least 10 to 15 years. During the period, the government should encourage professors to also hold positions within companies, Li Jiansheng, a professor specializing in the study of plant genes at China Agricultural University, said in a signed article posted on the university's website on Monday.

Government-subsidized institutions and colleges have better intellectual resources, while companies have advantages in management and fundraising. The greatest benefits will come from a combination of both, Li said.

Han Tianfu, a researcher at Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences' institute of crop science, said foreign companies have a stronghold on the market for high-quality fruit and vegetable seeds in China, even though the country insists on the use of homegrown rice, wheat and soy seeds.

"Seed giants like Monsanto and Syngenta have well-developed operations that range from genetically engineering to seed production and marketing," Han said.

The government recognizes the importance of commercializing the seed industry and, since April last year, has taken steps to encourage that outcome, he added.

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