China is set to launch a five-year, 10 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) research programme into genetically modified (GM) crops, according to the country's top agricultural biotechnology experts.
The first generation of GM crops focused on insect resistance. This new programme will emphasise yield, quality, nutrition improvement and drought resistance, according to Huang Dafang, former director of the Institute of Biotechnologies of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS).
Funding for GM safety and ecology monitoring and surveillance will be included, to reduce risks such as undesired gene flow into conventional crops.
Scientists say the programme was originally part of the nation's 2006–2010 plan for science and technology development, but funding was delayed due to the sensitivity of the area.
Chinese policymakers' attitudes to GM crops are now more receptive, according to Huang.
The injection of funding could lead to quicker commercialisation of GM crops in China, say scientists.
But Liu Xuehua, an associate professor of environment planning at Tsinghua University, says that any commercialisation policy should involve stakeholders and must not be based purely on government funding.