Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) would be a good solution to the problems facing Vietnam’s cereal producers, a conference on food biotechnology held on October 16 by the Center for Vietnam Science and Technology Internationalization Promotion (VISTIP), under the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) was told.

Mr. Le Huy Ham, Director of the Agricultural Genetics Institute at the National Center of Natural Science and Technology, told VET that GMO products would partly reduce the dependence on imported animal feed materials such as soybean and maize. “Around 95 per cent of soybean for animal feed is imported,” he said. “Vietnam has 1.1 million ha of maize and produces 5 million tons a year, which is half the productivity seen in the US.”  

Regarding GMO products for the cotton industry, Mr. Ham said almost all of the cotton planted in Vietnam is GMO and brings major profits to farmers because of its insect-resilience and strength.

Concerns were expressed at the conference over GMO products being harmful to human health. Many speakers, however, held the view that there is no scientific evidence of harmful effects. According to Mr. Alan McHughen, Biotechnology Specialist and Geneticist at the University of California, Riverside, there are differences in the definition of GMO among international trading partners that creates misleading perceptions when business is done among their enterprises.

In Vietnam, due to concerns over selecting GMO products, the government carefully considers the issue with advice coming from scientific committees and related ministries. Any GMO planted in Vietnam must have already been planted in at least five developed countries.

In terms of public communication over the pros and cons of GMO products, Ms. Helen Yu from the World Health Organization said that information needs to be delivered by trustworthy organizations to avoid any misunderstandings in the public domain.