Research and Teaching Blog
This morning our meeting was with Jikun Huang, Professor and Director of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He stated that the mission of his office was to 1) provide a scientific background for policy, 2) make policies for sustainability, 3) Education, 4) Outreach and multidisciplinarity (is that even a word?) and 5) Dissemination of research results.
Personally, I came away with a feeling that I learned a lot of new things and actually enjoyed the talk. Looking back at my notes, I realize that it's primarily due to a very large and comprehensive presentation containing a whole bunch of numbers. If I'm excited by statistics, does that make me a wonk?
Here's the list of facts, if it please you (roughly in the order it was presented):
- There are 7.1 million cotton farmers, 70% of whom used Bt cotton. (Huang et al. 2002, Impact of Bt Cotton Science and 2003 Ag. Econ)
- Huang et al., 2005, Impact of GM rice Science
- New GM research funds in China: RMB 26bn = US$3.82bn. (All public money)
- Lots of focus on sustainable use of water (through conservation and efficient utilization.
- Fourth highest user of fertilizer after Japan, Korea and Holland. (Primarily because the extension agents sell fertilizer in their spare time, and the general mentality that more fertilizer = more yield
- Impact of climate change - mostly will be manifested changes in irrigation practices. (I asked later if that changes the availability of arable land, but I did not receive a satisfactory answer. Something to the effect that the marginal land is marginal mainly due to lack of water right now, so it won't change... )
- A social experiment to determine if a letter to the parent or a vitamin supplement was more effective in reducing the incidence of anemia (which currently stands at 39%). Guess which was more effective. I gotta remember the whole 'letter to parent' thing when designing my experimental controls. (But but I sent a letter to the host bacterium before it evolved into something else....)
- 93% of the young people, who were born on a farm, have moved to a non-farm employment. (Impact of the 1-child policy?)
- Doha round of talks in 2010 will benefit China a lot (Kathy, what does that mean?)
- Biotechnology for developing drought resistance is of most importance.
- Unemployment in China due to the recent recession is about 20%, of which a third of them went back to their farms, thus the entitlement to their own acre served as a mitigating factor. Thus any change to the land rights policy will involve creating a rather massive social security net in the first place. Until then, there is probably no way out of the small farm conundrum.
- Biofuels, in general aren't of terrible consequence to the Chinese. They are looking at Jatropha production for biodiesel, but the potential is still quite small.
- They produced 1.3 mn tons of ethanol from cassava. (The African connection?)
- They also ran a few simulations on the impact of climate change (primarily as a result of changing irrigation practices. Their verdict: The southern part of China will benefit quite significantly, while the northern part will suffer slightly. Overall, it sounded like they would come out ahead. Not a result they expected, nor one they necessarily like. Maybe the whole GW thing is like the two accounts that the mafia would maintain.. one to get the research dollars, the other to justify doing nothing....