April 17, 2009
Vietnamese farmers will produce genetically modified plants commercially under the government’s instructions later this year, experts told a Ho Chi Minh City conference Wednesday.
The government will issue regulations on managing production of such plants to ensure safety and large-scale cultivation, they added.
In August 2005, the government had allowed the production of genetically modified organisms for commercial purposes but the lack of instructions had handicapped the policy, the conference heard.
Genetically modified plants in Vietnam have been grown in laboratories and some residents have been growing genetically modified rice, corn and cotton, but from smuggled seeds.
The Institute of Tropical Biology based in HCMC has applied this technology to create a rice variety that resists pests, a corn variety rich in iron, photogenic orchids and a kind of lettuce that contains the genes of the worm-resistant bacillus thuringgiensis bacteria.
The application of genetically modified crops in agriculture worldwide has been seen most in cotton, corn, soybean and colza.
Several farmers have been instructed to grow the corn that contains the bacillus thuringgiensis bacteria.
Nguyen Quoc Binh, deputy director of the HCMC Biotechnology Center that organized the conference, said Vietnam’s first purpose in using genetic engineering techniques is to produce herbicide resistant plants as well as animal feed for breeding livestock for export.
Vietnam imports 49-52 percent of the ingredients needed to make animal feed, with soybean meal wholly imported, online newspaper VietnamNet last month cited Le Ba Lich, chairman of the Vietnam Animal Feed Association, as saying.
An investigation in 2006 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development also found that most animal feed on the market contained genetically modified elements because they were imported.
The government order aims to develop Vietnam as a leading biotech nation in the Southeast Asian region by 2020, especially in genetic engineering.
By then, it is targeted that 30 to 50 percent of the planting area in the country will be devoted to GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops, and that the technology will meet more than 70 percent of the country’s demand for disease-resistant plants.
Under the government plan, all GMO seeds must be approved by authorized agencies before being grown in the country.
Also, locals can only plant the imported seeds once the exporting country has agreed for the seeds to be used for cultivation, assessed the risks and established effective management measures.
Publication date: 4/17/2009