"Chinese research funding into genetically-modified organisms (GMO) has fallen by 80 percent over the last four years, a member of a parliamentary advisory body said, as Beijing faces public unease over a technology it has been promoting to boost food security.
The government has urged its scientists to take a global lead in GMO, although it has been reluctant to commercialize GMO crops given public concerns over health risks.
Safety approvals for pest-resistant Bt rice as well as phytase corn, designed as a more environmentally friendly feed for pigs, were completed as early as 2009. But the world's largest buyer of imported GMO soy and cotton has not approved commercial production of GMO grains.
It has also delayed approval of new strains of imported GMO corn such as the MIR162 variant developed by Syngenta.
China's spending on GMO research has fallen to around 400 million yuan ($65.38 million) in 2013, down from as much as 2 billion yuan in 2010, Ke Bingsheng, president of the China Agricultural University, said in an address to Premier Li Keqiang during last week's annual session of parliament.
Ke said agriculture technology, particularly GMO, was crucial for a rapidly urbanising China to increase food production from its shrinking farmlands and water resources.
"GMO technology is extremely important to increase yields and efficiency," Ke said, according to a transcript of his speech made available by his university.
Beijing agreed an initial budget of 26 billion yuan to fund GMO development under a 12-year programme launched in 2008.
Ke did not say why the funding had fallen."
Our Citizen Ambassador group presented to China Agricultural University in 1985 before GMO was introduced. I wish I had a picture handy to show you!