Ru­ral re­form needs sci­ence in­put

Min­istry en­cour­ages re­searchers to be­come agri­cul­tural en­trepreneurs

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By CHENG YINGQI chengy­ingqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China will de­velop a mar­ket-ori­ented and com­mer­cial­ized seed in­dus­try and cre­ate a bet­ter pol­icy en­vi­ron­ment to en­cour­age sci­en­tists’ in­put in the sec­tor, a se­nior of­fi­cial said.

Zhang Laiwu, vice-min­is­ter of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, ex­plained the min­istry’s plan to deepen re­form of the agri­cul­tural sci-tech sys­tem and pro­mote ru­ral en­trepreneur­ship at a news con­fer­ence on Thurs­day.

High­light­ing the im­por­tance of mod­ern­iza­tion in the seed in­dus­try, Zhang said, “China has a large seed in­dus­try, but it is both dis­persed and weak com­pared to the world’s most pow­er­ful seed businesses.

“The key is to build a com­mer­cial­ized seed in­dus­try in China, which will re­quire a whole new set of in­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ments,” he said.

The sys­tem­atic com­mer­cial­iza­tion of China’s seed in­dus­try not only re­quires re­form of the in­dus­try’s over­all lay­out and re­gional dis­tri­bu­tion, but should also bring sci­en­tific re­search and the seed in­dus­try closer to in­crease the Chi­nese seed in­dus­try’s mar­ket com­pe­tence, he said.

The min­istry has adopted a se­ries of re­forms since 2012, in­clud­ing al­lo­cat­ing 1.6 bil­lion yuan ($263.8 mil­lion) to 25 na­tional seed-in­dus­try-re­lated projects, en­cour­ag­ing businesses to breed 535 va­ri­eties of high-yield and dis­ease-re­sis­tant plants and ex­pand­ing the plan­ta­tion of those fine va­ri­eties to 23.33 mil­lion hectares.

China has a large seed in­dus­try, but it is both dis­persed and weak com­pared to the world’s most pow­er­ful seed businesses.” ZHANG LAIWU VICE-MIN­IS­TER OF SCI­ENCE AND TECH­NOL­OGY

But many of China’s breed­ing com­pa­nies are still too small to lead the mar­ket, and most of the new breed­ing tech­nolo­gies re­main at an ex­per­i­men­tal stage in uni­ver­si­ties or re­search lab­o­ra­to­ries, with their com­mer­cial­iza­tion tak­ing at least 10 to 15 years, ac­cord­ing to ear­lier me­dia re­ports.

A plant re­searcher, named Xu, who was un­able to give his full name due to the me­dia reg­u­la­tions of the in­sti­tute he works for, said that the cur­rent poli­cies in­di­rectly dis­cour­age the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of re­search find­ings.

Re­search in­sti­tutes usu­ally at­tach more im­por­tance to a re­search project’s early work, such as pub­lish­ing the­ses or seek­ing patents. Though re­searchers are later re­quired to help businesses use the find­ings to pro­duce seeds, the re­searchers were of­ten un­able to spend years work­ing with the com­pa­nies.

“There is no con­sen­sus on how to di­vide the earn­ings and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties among re­searchers, their in­sti­tutes and the com­pa­nies,” he said, which makes in­sti­tutes re­luc­tant to let their re­searchers help businesses, a process which may last sev­eral years.

Zhang, the vice-min­is­ter, said that a trustee­ship sys­tem and a trad­ing sys­tem will be es­tab­lished to ac­cel­er­ate the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of re­search find­ings. But he did not elab­o­rate on de­tails.

The min­istry will pro­vide more fa­vor­able poli­cies to sup­port sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy spe­cial­ists to be­come agri­cul­tural en­trepreneurs.

At a na­tional level, the Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy has en­cour­aged sci­en­tific re­searchers to be­come “pro­fes­sional farm­ers” since 2009. Be­tween 2009 and Septem­ber 2013, 720,000 such spe­cial­ists moved to ru­ral ar­eas, he said.

These ex­perts are ex­pected to use their knowl­edge of breed­ing and the mar­ket, as well as govern­ment poli­cies in land leas­ing and fi­nance, to help farm­ers ben­e­fit from China’s agri­cul­tural mod­ern­iza­tion.

China has car­ried out pi­lot pro­grams on land banks, which al­low the spe­cial­ists to lease farm­ers’ land for in­ten­sive farm­ing, and to share the prof­its with the farm­ers, he said.

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