Genetics Association Chair tells farmers to use GM crops

VietNamNet Bridge – Responding to concerns about the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, Prof. Le Dinh Luong, Chair of the Vietnam Genetics, advised Vietnamese to remain calm about the use of GM crops and GM products.

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“We have missed it for over 20 years, is it possible to continue missing this opportunity 20 years more?" Prof. Luong said at a conference on “Farmers and the opportunity to use GM crops in Vietnam” held on December 3.

Prof. Luong and many experts attending the conference said that more than 10 years ago, Europe tested GM crops and came to a conclusion that genetically modified organisms are not more dangerous than ones that are being used by humans. The world is also enthusiastically responding to the application of GM organisms.

"GM crops do not suddenly fall down from the sky. They have been grown in the fields of Vietnam for dozens of years. The only difference is that now they now have added insect resistance and herbicide genes, so we can be completely assured that it it fine to use them," said Dr. Le Huy Ham, Director of the Vietnam Agricultural Genetics Institute.

Results of trials in Vietnam show that the ability to control pests on GM corn is more than 45%, compared to only 5% in normal corn varieties. Similarly, the weed control effectiveness of GM maize is also much higher than conventional maize.

Prior to the concern about commercialized GM crops, that Vietnamese farmers would be dependent on imported seeds, Dr. Ham said all of the maize varieties in Vietnam at present are hybrid and they are dependent on the companies that supply these varieties, except for purebred varieties that farmers breed themselves.

In addition, the Institute of Corn has created about 7.3% of the seed corn output, and the rest must depend on foreign companies. Similarly, Vietnam can produce just 2% of hybrid rice and the country has to import nearly 100 percent of seeds of other crops like cabbage and tomatoes.

“There are dozens of units providing GM crops so people can choose seeds of any company that they want," said Dr. Ham.

Prof. Luong said that Vietnam is in the process of strong integration, so it is normal to use foreign products.

He cited an example that there are only two aircraft manufacturers in the world - Boeing and Airbus - but they do not make it difficult for the aviation industry. There are up to 23 corporations and companies worldwide selling GM organisms and Vietnamese farmers can choose any supplier they like.

Since early 2010, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has permitted the wide-scale test of five GM maize varieties. In late August, the Ministry recognized that GM maize is eligible to use as animal feed in Vietnam.

After that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment approved and granted the bio-safety certificate to three types of GM maize. This is considered an important legal development for the commercialization and formal application of GM maize for mass production in 2015.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam imports up to 70% of raw materials used to produce animal feed. In the past 11 months, the country spent $3.03 billion to import animal feed, including $1.05 billion to import 4.07 million tons of maize.

Using GM maize is one of the appropriate measures to increase crop productivity and incomes for farmers, and to reduce Vietnam’s dependence on imported raw materials.

Thu Ly

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