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Bio-tech crucial to cutting emissions

Update: August, 25/2014 - 09:27
Rena Bitter, the US consul in HCM City, said bio-technology was a tool that could not only increase agricultural productivity but also play an important role in reducing greenhouse gases.— Illustrative image/Photo vietq.vn
HCM CITY (VNS) — Bio-technology plays a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of global warming, a conference heard in HCM City on Tuesday.

Rena Bitter, the US consul in HCM City, said bio-technology was a tool that could not only increase agricultural productivity but also play an important role in reducing greenhouse gases.

Duong Hoa Xo, general director of the HCM City Biotech Centre, said bio-technology was a priority field for development in Viet Nam.

Scientific achievements in bio-technology were bringing an economic and social revolution all over the world, especially in agriculture and research into genetically modified (GM) crops, he said.

The area under GM crops globally had increased from 1.6 million hectares in 1996 to 175.3 million hectares in March last year, he said, adding that the number of countries growing GM crops had increased to 28. Leonardo Gonzales of the Philippines's Department of Science and Technology – Biosafety Committee said Viet Nam could learn from his country's GM corn experience.

The Philippines had 10 years of experience in using GM corn, which was planted on around 750,000 hectares last year, he said.

Its research to assess whether the introduction of GM corn technologies, particularly borer resistant (Bt) corn, concluded that after 10 years of commercialisation there has been positive micro-economic farm level impacts, environmental impacts, and macro-economic effects, he said.

He recommended that Viet Nam should establish strategic alliances among stakeholders that can support an agriculture-biotechnology development policy framework, develop strategic linkages in GM corn communities with livestock-poultry production areas, and advocate for quality standards for corn.

Mai Van Trinh, deputy director of the Viet Nam Academy of Agricultural Sciences' Agriculture Environment Institute, spoke about greenhouse gas emissions by rice fields and measures to reduce them.

In the agriculture sector, greenhouse gas emissions come from many sources such as enteric fermentation, manure management, rice cultivation, and burning of agricultural residues.

He said Viet Nam needed to consider the global warming threat, adding that agriculture was the largest contributor to N2O emissions, with rice being the largest contributor to agricultural methane (CH4) emissions.

Methane emissions begin 10-14 days after a field is flooded. They began declining during grain filling and are reduced when the field was dried, he said.

Therefore, delaying the flooding and draining fields early and wetting and drying them would reduce the emissions, he said.

The conference also discussed a national plan to switch from rice to corn and other crops in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, challenges facing the livestock industry, bio-tech options, regulation of bio-technology, and timelines for bio-tech crop commercialisation in Viet Nam.

The conference, hosted by the US embassy in Ha Noi and the HCM City Biotechnology Centre, was aimed at raising awareness of the importance of agricultural bio-technology in coping with climate change.

Viet Nam is one of the countries considered most vulnerable to climate change because of its high population density in lowland river deltas and coastal areas, long coastline, and geographic positioning.

It is predicted that a one-metre rise in sea levels will permanently inundate a third of the Mekong Delta. — VNS

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