Genetically modified technology injects new momentum into ensuring food security

  Interview with Wu Kongming and Wan Jianmin, academicians of the Chinese Academy of Engineering

  Our reporter Wu Jing

  The people are the foundation of the country, and the valley is the life of the people.

Food security is an important foundation of national security.

  On October 13, the General Administration of Customs released data showing that China's grain imports from January to September were 12.8273 million tons, a year-on-year increase of 29.3%.

Among them, soybean imports accounted for 57.67% of total grain imports.

China is a large grain producer and consumer, and the total grain supply and demand are basically balanced.

However, soybeans, corn and some seed sources are still dependent on imports, and the problem of “stuck necks” in the seed industry needs to be resolved urgently.

  Breaking through resource constraints and ensuring national food security, in the final analysis, rely on technological innovation and application.

General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized that we must be determined to develop the national seed industry, step up efforts to cultivate fine varieties with independent intellectual property rights, and ensure national food security from the source.

  The No. 1 Central Document in 2021 proposes to accelerate the implementation of major scientific and technological projects in agricultural biological breeding.

As the most mature and widely used biological breeding technology in the world, genetically modified technology has become a technological commanding height that we must seize.

  What is the current level of development of genetically modified technology in China?

Are genetically modified foods safe?

What role can genetically modified technology play in ensuring China's food security?

On these issues, the reporter interviewed Wan Jianmin, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, deputy secretary of the party group and deputy dean of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and chief technical engineer of the National Major Specialized Technology of GMO New Variety Cultivation Technology.

  The application of genetically modified technology has triggered revolutionary changes in agricultural production methods, profoundly changed the pattern of agricultural product trade, and has become a frontier field in the international agricultural science and technology strategy.

  Reporter: What is genetic modification, and in which areas are it used?

  Wu Kongming: Transgenic means that scientists use engineering technology to transfer one or more genes of one organism to another organism, so that the latter organism can acquire new traits.

For example, the insect-resistant genes in the microorganisms are transferred into cotton, rice or corn to cultivate genetically modified cotton, rice or corn that are resistant to insects such as cotton bollworm, leaf roller and corn borer.

  At present, genetically modified technology has been widely used in the fields of medicine, industry, agriculture, environmental protection, energy, etc., becoming a new economic growth point and will have a significant impact on human society in the next few decades.

Many of the currently widely used human insulin, recombinant vaccines, antibiotics, interferon and brewer's yeast, food enzyme preparations, food additives, etc. are genetically modified products.

  Reporter: What are the benefits of genetically modified technology in the agricultural field?

  Wan Jianmin: In the field of agriculture, a large number of new genetically modified crop varieties with excellent traits such as insect resistance, disease resistance, herbicide resistance, high quality, and stress resistance have been bred internationally.

The widespread application of genetically modified technology has effectively reduced agricultural production labor costs, reduced pesticide use, reduced disaster losses, and played a major role in alleviating resource constraints, protecting the ecological environment, improving and enhancing the quality and nutritional value of agricultural products, and promoting green development. , Triggered revolutionary changes in agricultural production methods, profoundly changed the pattern of agricultural products trade, and has become a frontier field of international agricultural science and technology strategies.

  The global genetically modified crop industry continues to expand.

Since the commercialization of genetically modified crops in 1996, 29 countries or regions around the world have approved for planting, and 42 countries or regions have approved for import. The varieties have expanded from genetically modified soybeans, cotton, corn, and rape to 32 kinds of plants such as potatoes, apples, and alfalfa. The cumulative planting has been More than 40 billion mu.

In the major countries that have approved commercial planting, the proportion of genetically modified crops is close to saturation.

The proportion of major genetically modified crops planted in the world is 79% cotton, 74% soybean, 31% corn, and 27% rape.

  Genetically modified foods approved for marketing through safety evaluations are safe and as safe as traditional foods

  Reporter: Some people think that "GM foods are not safe, and Europeans and Americans do not eat genetically modified foods." Are genetically modified foods safe?

  Wu Kongming: Genetically modified foods approved for marketing in accordance with the law through safety evaluations are safe and as safe as traditional foods.

  From a scientific point of view, genetically modified products need to undergo safety evaluations of edible toxicity, allergenicity, and environmental and ecological impacts on gene drift, genetic stability, survival and competitiveness, and biodiversity before they are marketed, so as to ensure that they pass safety evaluations and obtain The government-approved genetically modified organisms, in addition to adding desirable traits, such as insect resistance and drought resistance, will not increase additional risks such as allergens and toxins.

  From an international perspective, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have concluded after thorough research that the genetically modified foods currently on the market are safe.

Based on more than 130 scientific research projects carried out by more than 500 independent scientific groups in 25 years, the European Commission published a report in 2010 and concluded that "biotechnology, especially genetically modified technology, is not more risky than traditional breeding technology."

  From the practical point of view, genetically modified technology began to be applied in the food industry in 1989, and many of the widely used beer yeast and food additives are genetically modified products.

Since the commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops in 1996, billions of people in more than 70 countries and regions have eaten genetically modified agricultural products, and there has not been a case of scientifically proven safety issues.

  China has established a set of strict and standardized agricultural genetically modified organisms safety evaluation and supervision system, carries out strict safety evaluation and effective supervision of agricultural genetically modified organisms, effectively guarantees human health and the safety of animals, plants, and microorganisms, and protects the ecological environment.

  The United States is a major country in the research and development of genetically modified technology, as well as a major country in the production and consumption of genetically modified food.

About 50% of genetically modified soybeans and 80% of genetically modified corn produced in the United States are consumed and used in the United States.

According to statistics from the American Grocery Association, 75%-80% of processed foods on the American market contain genetically modified ingredients.

The EU imports a large amount of genetically modified agricultural products every year.

In 2019, the EU imported about 12 million tons of genetically modified soybeans, accounting for more than 70% of the EU's total soybean consumption. The EU also imports about 250,000 tons of genetically modified soybean oil each year to make up for the market gap.

  China has become the second largest R&D country, achieving an overall leap from partial innovation to "independent genes, independent technologies, and independent varieties"

  Reporter: What is the current development level of China's agricultural genetically modified technology, and where is it in the world?

  Wan Jianmin: China is one of the earliest countries to carry out research and development of agricultural genetic modification.

Since the 1980s, the "863" and "973" programs have successively deployed the research and development of genetically modified cotton, rice, and soybeans.

In 2008, the country launched the only major scientific and technological project in the agricultural field-a major special project for the cultivation of new varieties of genetically modified organisms, and the research and development of agricultural genetically modified organisms has entered a period of rapid development.

  The level of genetically modified research and development in China has continued to rise.

Gene clones ranged from a small amount to a double liter of quantity and quality, and more than 300 genes with important breeding value such as disease resistance, herbicide tolerance, cold and salt tolerance, high-efficiency utilization of nutrients, high-quality, and high-yield were obtained.

Transgenic technology has achieved a breakthrough from a local to an overall leap, and breakthroughs have been achieved in a number of key technologies.

Nearly 3000 invention patents have been obtained.

  The variety of genetically modified products in China continues to grow.

The market share of domestic insect-resistant cotton increased to more than 99%; 3 herbicide-tolerant soybeans and 4 insect-resistant herbicide-tolerant corn obtained production and application safety certificates; insect-resistant soybeans, drought-tolerant corn, insect-resistant rice, drought-tolerant wheat, and Blue-ear disease pigs have formed a tiered reserve.

  China's genetically modified R&D team has been continuously strengthened.

The R&D team and the leading talent team continue to grow, and more than 100 leading talents in biological breeding have been cultivated.

  After years of hard work, China has become the second largest R&D country after the United States, and has achieved an overall leap from partial innovation to "independent genes, independent technologies, and independent varieties", laying a solid foundation for the industrial application of transgenics.

  Genetically modified technology can improve China's corn yield and production level, and is also a key means to enhance the competitiveness of China's soybean industry

  Reporter: China is a big food consumer, and agricultural products such as soybeans and corn currently rely heavily on imports.

How do you think this problem should be solved to effectively guarantee China's food security?

  Wu Kongming: China is a large grain production and consumption country, and the total grain supply and demand are basically balanced.

In 2020, the grain area will reach 1.752 billion mu, and the total output will reach 1.339 billion kilograms. The national per capita grain volume will reach 474 kilograms, which is higher than the 400 kilograms of international food security standards.

The production and demand of the two major rations of rice and wheat are more than balanced, and the self-sufficiency rate of grains exceeds 95%, which guarantees the strategic goal of "absolutely safe rations and basic self-sufficiency of grains".

However, due to population growth, resource constraints, climate change and other factors, China's grain supply and demand are in a tight balance, and the total gap in soybeans, corn and other products will continue to expand.

  China's soybean supply situation mainly presents the following aspects: First, China's rigid demand for soybeans is strong, and the output gap is large.

The dependence on soybean imports is close to 84%.

Second, there is a big gap in soybean yield.

In 2020, China's soybean yield is 132 kg/mu, which is 53 kg/mu compared with the world average yield of 185 kg/mu, and there is a large room for improvement in yield.

Third, the cost of soybean production is relatively high.

At present, China's soybean production is mechanized and scaled low, and labor costs are relatively high. The production cost is 625.9 yuan/mu, which is 31.2% and 41.9% higher than the United States and Brazil, respectively.

  Genetically modified technology is a key means to enhance the competitiveness of China's soybean industry.

At present, the main body of large-scale soybean operations in the world mainly adopts new high-yield soybean varieties that are compact, dense and lodging-resistant, and have strong disease resistance, and are suitable for full mechanized production.

The three herbicide-tolerant soybeans cultivated through genetically modified technology in China have obtained production and application safety certificates, which can reduce the cost of weeding by more than 30 yuan/mu, increase the yield by more than 10% compared with the main varieties, and increase the efficiency by 100 yuan per mu. At the same time, reasonable crop rotation can be realized. .

China's self-developed herbicide-tolerant soybeans are currently approved for commercial planting in Argentina, completing the international layout of genetically modified products.

  In terms of corn supply situation, in recent years, China’s corn planting area has basically stabilized at about 600 million mu. In 2020, 619 million mu will be planted, with a total output of 261 million tons. The self-sufficiency rate is about 95%. At present, China’s corn yield is still very large. upside potential.

Taking 2020 as an example, China's corn yield is 421 kg/mu, which is only 60% of that of the United States.

  Genetically modified technology can improve China's corn output and production level.

At present, 4 insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant genetically modified corns cultivated through genetically modified technology have obtained production and application safety certificates. The insect-resistant effect is more than 95%, which can increase the yield by 7%-17% compared with the control corn, and reduce the use of pesticides by 60%, effectively reducing The production input cost is reduced, and the pollution of aflatoxin after insect pests is reduced.

At the same time, the herbicide resistance is remarkable, which reduces the labor input cost and reduces the herbicide risk.

  New breakthroughs in cutting-edge technologies such as genetic modification will inject new momentum into ensuring food security

  Reporter: In 2021, the No. 1 document of the central government proposes to fight a turnaround in the seed industry.

What is the significance of the development of genetically modified technology for biological breeding?

  Wan Jianmin: In 2021, the No. 1 document of the central government has made arrangements to "do a good job of turning over the seed industry". It is proposed that the industrial application of biological breeding should be promoted in an orderly manner under the premise of respecting science and strict supervision.

  Biological breeding is a general term for modern agricultural biotechnology breeding, which mainly includes the use of transgenic, gene editing, whole-genome selection, synthetic biology and other technologies to carry out efficient, precise, and targeted genetic improvement and variety cultivation of animals and plants.

Promoting the industrialization of biological breeding is an inevitable choice for promoting the high-quality development of the modern seed industry, ensuring the national food security and the effective supply of important agricultural products.

  Transgenic technology is an important aspect of biological breeding, and it is also the modern biotechnology with the fastest development speed, the widest application range and the greatest industrial impact in the world so far.

The development of genetically modified technology is of great significance to biological breeding in China.

First, genetically modified technology has obvious technical advantages and driving and advanced nature.

Transgenic technology accelerates the coordinated improvement of various traits such as resistance, quality, and yield of crop varieties, and provides an effective technical way to solve agricultural development.

The second is that the major products created by genetically modified technology can solve the current resource constraints and increase production.

Third, genetically modified technology is of great significance for us to seize the commanding heights of biotechnology and grasp the autonomy of the seed industry.

The level of research and application of agricultural biological breeding technology has become an important indicator of a country’s agricultural core competitiveness.

The development of genetically modified technology and seizing the commanding heights of agricultural biological breeding technology and its industry are major strategies to enhance China's agricultural core competitiveness.

  Reporter: General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized at the academician conference of the two academies this year to achieve high-level scientific and technological self-reliance.

How does China's genetically modified technology achieve high-level development, and what is its important role for national security?

  Wu Kongming: In recent years, the rapid development of life sciences and information sciences, using genetically modified technology as the chassis technology, and integrating cutting-edge breeding technologies such as driving gene editing, whole genome selection, synthetic biology, and artificial intelligence design, has spawned disruptive agricultural biological design. Breeding technology has become a strategic commanding height in the field of agricultural biological breeding.

  At present, China has established a complete transgenic breeding technology system through special implementation, and its research and development capabilities have entered the world's first square array, breaking through a number of key core technical bottlenecks, and the genetic transformation efficiency of major animals and plants has reached the international advanced level.

However, the innovation of China's biological seed industry is facing huge challenges, and the originality of key core technologies is insufficient. 70% of the core patents of global agricultural biotechnology are controlled by the United States.

In addition, China's biotechnology and information technology system integration and application are insufficient, and the research and development of new products and multi-character superimposed products are lagging behind.

  Under the current situation, strengthen the research and development of major new varieties of rice, wheat, corn, soybeans, etc. that are related to food security; strengthen the cultivation of new varieties of cotton, pigs, dairy cows, and sheep that are related to the improvement of industrial competitiveness; expand the new advantages of rapeseed, The research and development of new breeds such as chicken and fish is the key to ensuring national food security and ecological security.

At present, the driving force of the input of resource elements to increase production has been significantly weakened, and new breakthroughs in cutting-edge technologies such as genetic modification are urgently needed to inject new momentum into ensuring food security.

On the basis of the development of transgenic technology, cultivating new crop varieties with high yield, high quality, disease and insect resistance, drought resistance and salt-tolerant, nutrient-efficient utilization and resource-efficient utilization of new animal varieties is expected to meet China’s growing demand for food, meat, eggs, and milk. Fundamentally guarantee national food security and solve the major problems of resource conservation and high-quality development of environment-friendly agriculture.

  Therefore, in order to realize the high-level development of genetically modified technology in our country, consider the following aspects: expand the technical field, and promote the development of biological breeding towards precision, efficiency and intelligence.

Adhere to the product industry-oriented, research and development of multi-character superimposed products and new high-quality green products.

Persist in the in-depth integration of industry, university and research, build a collaborative innovation ecosystem of "government, industry, university, research and funding", and promote the integration and innovation of multiple elements.

Vigorously promote industrialization, and comprehensively consider factors such as product safety, technological maturity, industrial urgent need, social acceptance, and international trade to promote commercial planting.

Create a leading enterprise, cultivate innovative leading talents and innovative teams for genetically modified organisms breeding, and create an innovative seed industry enterprise with international competitiveness.

Keywords: biotechnology, china, momentum, wu jing, foundation, breeding, development, food security, soybeans, foods, security, wan jianmin, products, technology, wu kongming