Premier Wen comes out in full support of GM crops

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 October, 2008, 12:00am

The central government will use transgenic crops to boost farmers' incomes and reinvigorate the rural economy, Premier Wen Jiabao told Science magazine.

Mr Wen, a geologist by training, said science and technology were the 'well- springs' of development. In contrast to previous ambiguity, he openly supported the commercial growth of genetically modified crops.

'I strongly advocate making great efforts to pursue transgenic engineering. The recent food shortages around the world have further strengthened my belief [in developing such technologies],' Mr Wen was quoted by the US journal as saying.

And in a first for a Chinese leader, Mr Wen publicly sided with the US government and criticised European countries for erecting trade barriers to transgenic crops, preventing them from reaching African countries.

'Don't mix transgenic science with trade barriers,' he said. 'That would block [the] development of science.'

Mr Wen said innovation in the agricultural sector was a Communist Party aim. 'The No1 principle of the scientific outlook on development is to put people first through the development of production to meet the increasing material and cultural needs of the people,' Mr Wen said. 'We need to consider all aspects of development, that is to say, we need to resolve the disparities - rich-poor disparity, regional disparity, and urban-rural disparity - in our country's developmental process.

'[We also need] sustainable development ... to solve the challenges of population, resources and environmental protection faced by a population of 1.3 billion in its modernisation process.'

The interview's publication follows last week's Communist Party Central Committee meeting in Beijing.

Zhu Zhen , a leading transgenic rice scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Genetics and Development Biology, said transgenic engineering was the quickest way to change China's rural economy. 'If the Chinese government's attitude was ambiguous before, Premier Wen's speech has made clear the current, dominant thinking among the leadership. We have all geared up,' he said.