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China strives for self-sufficiency, also in seed breeding

Taking the vision of creating a "Silicon Valley" for the Chinese seed industry, the Nanfan Technology City aims to create a new engine for the innovation and development of the seed industry with science and technology as the core. 

Nanfan, meaning breeding in the south in Chinese, has become the country's largest southern breeding base since the mid-1970s thanks to the local tropical climate and rich biological resources. Every year, from September to May, more than 8,000 agricultural scientists and workers from 700 institutions across the country will congregate at the breeding center. For Nanfan, its role has upgraded from a traditional breeding center to a platform showcasing strategic scientific and technological strength especially amid the international situation over recent few years, to grasp the "biological chip" in its own hands, experts say.

Seed quality is of great importance to the national security, food security, as well as economic and social security of China. "The political situation of the past few years was a wake-up call for us to realize that apart from semiconductor, the cutthroat seed technology is also not in our hands and that we badly need to make efforts toward that direction," He said, and that is why the Nanfan "Silicon Valley" shoulders the responsibility of technological innovation.

For Lu Yuping, vice president of Yuan Long Ping High-Tech Agriculture Co and general manager of start-up Longping Biotechnology (Hainan) Co, who came back to China in 2010 after his studying and working in the US for over 15 years, the best moment has come to devote himself to the national course to win a turnaround in the seed industry that China has a major gap with other countries.

As one of the first batch of biotechnology firms that settled in the Yazhou Bay Science and Technology City, Longping Biotechnology (Hainan) has submitted more than 10 national invention patents, while aiming for planting four generations of corn in a year in Hainan. The start-up mainly focuses on the research of genetically modified corn and soybean.

Furthermore, "R&D on breeding technology is the cornerstone without which we cannot achieve self-sufficiency. Over the past decades, the US has taken a leap in technology and compiled a 'dictionary' of genes, which we cannot obtain," he noted, stressing the efforts that Chinese research institutes and firms should start compiling its own "dictionary." "We need to prepare mentally for a decade or two to devote ourselves to the course."

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