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Published July 11, 2008 11:41 AM

China to urgently boost GM crop development

China has said it must urgently step up the development of genetically modified crops as it faces mounting challenges to feed its 1.3 billion people due to shrinking arable land and climate change.

Newly-approved plans aim to cultivate high-yielding and pest-resistant genetically modified species, the State Council, or cabinet, said in a statement posted on its website late Wednesday.

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At a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, Chinese leaders said the plans were "of strategic significance" in the country's drive to make its agricultural sector more efficient and competitive internationally, the statement said.

"Departments must fully understand the importance and urgency of this significant project, further improve the programme and waste no time to carry it out," it said.

It gave no details on which crops should be developed, but analysts said the plans were likely to focus on developing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, including corn and rice.

China has become a major producer of genetically modified cotton and vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes, but it has yet to begin large-scale production of genetically modified rice, corn and soybeans.

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