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[HANOI] Vietnam's prime minister has approved plans to spend one trillion dong (US$63 million) over the next 15 years on agricultural biotechnology.

Under the plans approved last month, Vietnam will research and develop vaccines and genetically modified (GM) crops and livestock.

Part of the money will be used to train scientists.

It is the first time Vietnam has set aside so much money for biotechnology, and reflects the government's view that the sector is key to development, says Chu Tuan Nhan, chair of the National Council for Science and Technology Policy.

Nhan says that Vietnam's progress in biotechnology has been relatively modest until now, and has been overshadowed by the success of some of its Asian neighbours.

Before being allocated sponsorship, scientists will have to go through a strict selection process to ensure they are capable of carrying out the research, he says.

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