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Xi Focus: Sowing for future: Xi leads China's seed industry vitalization

Published on 02/24 2022  Source: Xinhua


Photo taken on Oct. 20, 2021 shows seeds stored at the Germplasm Bank of Wild Species in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province (Xinhua/Jiang Wenyao)

With their eyes set on seeds, Chinese authorities on Tuesday pledged vigorous efforts to make technological breakthroughs in the seed sector and galvanize its development as the country continues to push forward rural vitalization.

In the newly-unveiled "No. 1 central document", the first policy statement released by China's central authorities this year, the country has outlined seed industry development as one of its policy priorities, with specific moves such as implementing an action plan on seed industry, promoting germplasm collection and enhancing intellectual property (IP) protection in the sector.

Tiny and trivial as they may seem, seeds are dubbed as the "chips" of agriculture. With a strategic vision, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has long attached great attention to the sector.

Stressing the role of seeds in ensuring grain security of the world's most populous country, Xi has spoken of the issue on multiple occasions, shedding light on where China's seed industry is heading.

Hold fast to Chinese Seeds

To ensure grain security, China must hold seeds fast in its own hands, Xi said during his inspection tour to the country's major agricultural base Henan Province in May last year.

China's grain security should be ensured with Chinese seeds, Xi stressed while observing a wheat field in a village in Nanyang City of Henan Province.

Over the past few years, the country's seed sector has progressed considerably thanks to policy measures, but its overall development foundation remains relatively weak.

China has basically achieved seed self-sufficiency in two of its staple grains — rice and wheat. However, in terms of corns, another staple in China, the country remains partially dependent on imported seeds as its corn breeding capabilities still lag behind the international advanced level.

The lingering pandemic has also underscored the importance of grain security. The sudden blow of the virus has thrown the global grain market into turmoil, making self-dependence of seeds all the more important and pressing for countries across the world.

The key to grain security lies in its productivity, and that means the country should be capable of producing and supplying enough grains in times of need, Xi said during a meeting on rural work in 2017, underlining the development of a modern seed industry as one of the focuses for agricultural development.

Sow seeds of vitalization

Under Xi's leadership, the country has been on the move to energize its seed industry. The issue has been stressed in several of its high-level meetings and heavyweight documents, with germplasm, breeding technologies and seed IP protection highlighted on its rural vitalization agenda.

Germplasm, or living genetic resources, is the very basis of breeding. During a meeting on reform held in July last year, Xi stressed that germplasm security should be elevated to the strategic height of national security and called for efforts to ensure that China's germplasm is independent and controllable.

In a milestone action plan on seed industry vitalization passed last year, protection of germplasm is listed as a primary task. The country's ongoing large-scale germplasm census has so far progressed as planned and archived initial results. Efforts to build germplasm pools are also underway, with a national crop seed bank set up in September last year.

Achieving breakthroughs on key and core seed technologies remains essential. During an inspection of south China's Hainan Province in 2018, Xi emphasized that certified seeds are crucial to increasing grain production.

Similar words were reiterated three years later during Xi's Henan inspection, where he said that self-dependence on agricultural technologies should start from breeding good seeds and making technological breakthroughs on certified seeds.

The country will work to achieve breakthroughs in key and core technologies related to germplasm, implement major biological breeding projects and promote industrial applications, said agricultural minister Tang Renjian while elaborating the action plan.

To strengthen seed IP protection, China's legislature adopted a decision on amending the Seed Law last year to bolster deterrence to IP infringement behaviors and put in place mechanisms conducive to innovation in the sector.

"A seed can change a world, and a technology can create a miracle," Xi said. With quick and decisive moves coming one after another, China is set to see a seed industry burgeoning with greater vitalities.