China hosts about one fourth of the world's population but has only a 10 percent of the agricultural surface. This results in a great stress on the country's resources to produce enough of both foods and biofuels to meet the demand. Latest figures about China's interest in biofuels show that the country produces about one million tons of ethanol per year, but expects to produce 12 million in 2020 to reduce oil dependency. The bad part of this is that current ethanol-prodction methods in the country are far from being efficient. Officially, there are four facilities that produce ethanol, but the fact is that there are hundreds of small factories that produce ethanol from grains.
Brazil is eager to enter into the Chinese market, but Chinese authorities have decided that they cannot only rely on one source. Therefore, both the Minister of Agriculture and the Vice-President of the Development and Reform National Commission, Chen Deming, have announced that China is going to try to produce ethanol not from grains but from crops such as sweet sorghum (pictured), sugarcane and mandioca.
Whereas in some other places the food vs. biofuel debate seems to be out of the question (I insist on the "seems to be"), China's concerns seem correctly addressed due to the country's own resources limitations. The country is also developing all kind of crops that can yield more than current offerings, with extensive use of genetically modified seeds. To support this, the source article states that the Chinese Academy of Sciences invested 9 percent of its budget in biotechnology in 1999, whereas other equivalent institutions around the globe are currently investing from 2 to 5 percent.
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