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China introduced biotech cotton in 1996 making it one of the six “founder biotech crop countries”. In 2008, biotech cotton was planted in China by 7.1 million small and resource-poor farmers on 3.828 million ha, (up from 3.5 million ha in 2006) which is equivalent to 69% of the 5.5 million ha of all cotton planted in China.

In 2006 and 2007, of 240 cotton growing households surveyed in 12 villages in three provinces – Hebei, Henan and Shandong, by the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, it is notable that every single family that reported growing Bt cotton in 2006, also elected to grow Bt cotton in 2007 – thus, the repeat index for farmers growing Bt cotton between 2006 and 2007 in three provinces in China was 100%. Based on the same study conducted by CCAP, on average at the farm level Bt cotton in China increases yield by 9.6%, reduces insecticide use by 60%, with positive implications for both the environment and the farmers’ health, and generates a substantial US$220 per ha increase in income, which makes a significant contribution to their lives as income of many cotton farmers is less than US$1 per day. It is estimated that China has enhanced its farm income from biotech cotton by US$6.7 billion in the period 1996 to 2007 (Brookes & Barfoot, 2009).

In 2006, biotech papaya, resistant to papaya ringspot virus was locally developed and commercialized. Approximately 88% (up 18% from 2007) of papaya which is mainly grown in Guangdong province is biotech and about 400 ha of biotech poplar are grown. Biotech poplar has decreased pest damage from 80% to only 10%.
In 2006, China grew 29.3 million ha of rice equivalent to 20% of the world total of 150 million ha. There are an estimated 250 million rice households in the world, and the vast majority of them are small and resource-poor farmers. There are an estimated 110 million rice households in China farming an average of 0.27 hectare of rice – these small and resource-poor rice farmers represent some of the poorest people in the world. China has the largest biotech rice program in the world. China’s biotech rice is resistant to specific pests (insect borers) and diseases (bacterial blight) and is awaiting approval after extensive field tests. Dr. Jikun Huang from the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP) estimates that on the average, biotech rice increased yield by 2 to 6%, and reduced insecticide application by nearly 80% or 17 kg per ha. At a national level, it is projected that biotech rice could deliver benefits of US$4 billion per year for China, plus environmental benefits that will contribute to a more sustainable agriculture and the alleviation of poverty for small and resource-poor farmers.

Chinese policymakers view agricultural biotechnology as a strategic element for increasing productivity, improving national food security and ensuring competitiveness in the international market place. There is little doubt that China intends to be one of the world leaders in biotechnology since Chinese policymakers have concluded that there are unacceptable risks of being dependent on imported technologies for food, feed and fibre security. China has a multitude of public sector institutes and thousands of researchers devoted to crop biotechnology and over a dozen biotech crops are being field-tested, including the three major staples: rice, maize, and wheat, as well as cotton, potato, tomato, soybean, cabbage, peanut, melon, papaya, sweet pepper, chilli, rapeseed and tobacco.

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