Biotechnology is one of the 5 top priorities of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Facing an increasing population, a fast and more and more landconsuming industrialisation resulting in a decrease in agricultural land, the government aims to increase crop yield and productivity for the national food security with the means of genetical engineering….
There are projects with Bt-cotton, -corn, -soybeans, vegetables, trees and flowers in order to develop pest-resistance as well as to become less vulnerable to abiotic stress like draught and saltwater. GE-methodologies will be applied in order to make bigger grains or to alter the functional quality of the crops. Vietnam is the world biggest rice exporter – but as there is no export market for GMO and the domestic need covered by small scale and family farming, GMO-rice is not a priority. Vietnamese are very pragmatic!
Despite the fact, that GE/GMO will play a major role soon and the scientists are encouraged to undertake applied science in biotechnology, there is no legal GE/GMO-framework in place, yet. Neither the research nor the application, development and use, trade and consumption of GE/GMO is ruled. However, by the end of 2007 there should be the legal basis for research and by 2011 all aspects for the GMO-commercialisation, according to the government. However, Governmental officials confirmed, that inofficially, there is GMO growing out in the fields (GMO-cotton in the central highlands, illegaly improted from China).
Vietnam is a member of WTO prohibiting discrimination of trade goods and subsidies of national agriculture. Therefore Vietnam intends to develop own GMOs in order to compete with cheap Chinese imports.
Due to the international biosafety-convention, Vietnam is obliged to deliver safety-data prior to the official release of GMOs. Therefore, Vietnamese scientists and policymakers cooperate with leading scientists from around the world in order to build own technical capacity and develop methodologies on GMO risk assessment. The Swiss GMO-ERA project (capacity building and training on methodologies for environmental risk assessments) is one exemple, but there are other cooperations f.e. with US, Canada, China. Vietnamese scientists are convinced to reduce soil degradation and improve food savety as well as costs when the chemical agriculture (using tons of pesticieds) is replaced by GE agriculture.
There is a strong collaboration with international companies like Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer – the companies hardly can wait until they officially can enter the market. But Vietnamese government is aware of the fact, that most of the products the companies will have to be adapted to the national needs – Bt just isn’t what they need most.
Public is very concerned about what they eat – the Vietnames kitchen is always fresh and healthy. However, people buy what looks and smells nice – and what is the cheapest. Despite the scandals with toxic vegetables and fruits imported from China. The people we asked want GE/GMO to be labeled and generally they are in favour of GE/GMO under the condition that it is safe.
But far most of the people don’t know anything about GE, as there is not much public info about GMO. Governemt will start informing the people, once the legal basis are in place and GMOs are ready for consumption.
Our source of information (direct meetings):
- Ministry of Agricultur & Rural Development – MARD
- Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment MONRE
- Food Crops Research Institute – FCRI
- Plant Protection Research Institute – PPRI
- Vietnam Environmental Protection Agency – VEPA
- Hanoi Agricultural University, Biotechnology Dpt
- GMO Environmental Risk Assessment-Project – GMOERA
- Internet: www.antoansinhhoc.vn, www.gmoera.umn.edu
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