Many constraints still exist that hinder the large-scale research and utilization of transgenic crops.
One of the major constraints relates to intellectual property rights (IPR). China does not yet have effective IPRs for large-scale biotechnology research to develop transgenic crops. Most of the transgenic crop plants that have been developed so far involve complex IPR issues. There is a major shortage of experts in China with knowledge of IPRs and experience in dealing with these issues. China urgently needs help in training people in IPR. Scientists and breeders do not fully understand IPRs, which are often not recognized and honoured. Public education is therefore urgently needed.
Another major constraint is the lack of extension mechanisms that take the products of biotechnology research to the farmers. China had a network system to dispense agricultural technologies, seeds and other related materials, but with the development of a market economy, the old distribution systems are gradually losing their effectiveness and are now evolving into profit-driven seed companies undergoing the processes of privatization. Although this may be a good movement in itself, it may take several years for the system to become effective, because the funding situation does not appear to be promising. Governmental support goes mainly to the research component and there is not enough funding to support initiatives and start-ups of seed companies.
There are also a number of scientific and technical constraints to the application of technology in crop improvement. One of the constraints is the lack of understanding of the mechanisms governing the traits that are important in crop improvement. Drought causes severe yield loss worldwide and it will continue to be among the most damaging stresses in crop production. Tolerance of the crop to drought as a trait, however, has not been well defined and it is still not clear what aspects of plant morphology or physiology are the most important for drought tolerance. Research is still needed to define a clear target for improving drought tolerance.
There is also a need for more germ-plasm. Germ-plasm has not been found for a number of important traits, such as resistance to fungal diseases and resistance to a number of pests in crop species (for example, sheath blight of rice, scab disease of wheat and yellow wilt of cotton). These have become dev astating diseases worldwide, as have borer insects of a number of crops, which cause heavy damage. International collaboration, coordinated by the international agricultural research centres, may have a crucial role to play in germ-plasm identification, exchange and utilization.
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