Crop biotechnology could help Vietnam ensure food security, experts have said at a recent workshop on global outlook for genetically modified (GM) crops in Hanoi.

According to Nguyen Van Tuat, Deputy Director of Vietnam Academy for Agricultural Sciences, the country has the potential to develop crop biotechnology.

He said that in the last few years, the country's field trials for GM crops including maize, soybean and cotton had shown promising results. For example, biotech maize productivity reflected 30-40 percent higher than in control plots.

With the spending of about 2 billion USD on imported maize and soybean for animal feed production, some of it biotech, the country was already consuming genetically modified products in meat and poultry.

Agriculture expert Vo Tong Xuan said that Vietnam had huge demand for raw materials to produce animal feed, which required an improvement of crop technologies. GM crops could help reduce imports and raise incomes for farmers.

However, scientists still questioned the impacts of GM crops on human health and the environment, including the development of pests and weeds which may get out of control, or the loss of valuable characteristics of crops.

Meanwhile, Dr Clive James, founder and chairman of the International Services for the Acquisition on Agriculture Application, said Vietnam had the potential to plant about 1 million hectares in biotech crops. But if it did not start soon it might lag behind African countries, he said.

James emphasised the role of technological applications in agriculture production to eradicate hunger and reduce poverty.

Genetically modified crops first appeared in the world more than two decades ago and have helped increase productivity, reduce the use of chemicals or pesticide, ensure food security and cope with climate change impacts, such as severe drought, flood, and diseases.

There were 28 countries worldwide planting GM crops, led by the US with 69.5 million hectares, with an average adoption rate of about 90 percent across principal biotech crops. Brazil ranked second in area, with 36.6 million hectares planted.

Over four consecutive years, Brazil had shown the largest increase in the world, a year-over-year increase of 21 percent.

Last year, the cultivation area of GM crops worldwide reached 170 million hectares, 100 times up on that of 1996 when the GM crops were first planted for commercial purposes.-VNA