* Indonesia wants to boost food staples output; corn demand
* Junior agriculture minister sees progress on GMO crops
within a year
* Rubber re-planting scheme started with initial $8.6 mln
By Michael Taylor and Viriya Paramita
JAKARTA, Nov 14 Indonesia must adopt genetically
modified crops if the world's fourth-most-populous nation wants
to achieve self-sufficiency in food staples like corn, a senior
agriculture official said.
Corn imports into Southeast Asia's largest economy are
rising rapidly as improved wealth levels drive poultry demand,
and are forecast to nearly double this year to 2.8 million
Indonesia set a goal after food prices surged five years ago
to be able to feed itself in soy, beef, corn, rice and white
sugar by 2014, but the policy is being softened amid signs the
targets are a long way off.
"In Indonesia, we are still not allowed to implement it
(GMO)," Deputy Agriculture Minister Rusman Heriawan told Reuters
late on Wednesday. "Using the GMO will increase our production
more. That's the only one solution we have."
At present, Indonesia allows the import of many GMO foods,
like soybeans and corn, but politicians have shied away from
backing the introduction of GM seeds for staple foods.
Opposition to the agriculture ministry's GMO push is coming
from the country's Bio Security Commission for Genetically
Engineered Products, said Heriawan.
Indonesian government departments and agencies often fail to
work together because of a lack of communication or differing
agendas, which can slow the progress of new initiatives and
However, Heriawan said he was hopeful that GMO technology
would be used in Indonesia within a year, despite consumer
"We have tried different ways to increase our production and
finally we came up with this idea ... that the remaining
strategy for agriculture development is by using GMO," he said.
Both Syngenta AG, the world's largest maker of
crop chemicals, and Monsanto Co., the world's largest
seed company, have been promoting GMO in Indonesia this year.
GM technology using genes to modify crops in order to yield
more output has previously faced resistance in the country in
case of health or biodiversity risks.
In 2001, Indonesia planned to cultivate 20,000 hectares
(49,400 acres) of GM cotton in South Sulawesi sponsored by
Monsanto, but the programme was stopped after strong protests
from non-governmental organisations.
Heriawan said the Indonesian government has also taken
advantage of soft demand for rubber to spearhead a drive to
re-plant rubber plantations this year, with an initial outlay of
100 billion rupiah ($8.6 million).
"We started the re-planting program this year, mostly in
Sumatra and in parts of Kalimantan," he said, adding that the
scheme was expected to last four years.
Rubber output in Indonesia, the world's second-largest
producer, is seen at 3.2 million tonnes this year, up from 3
million tonnes a year earlier, according to industry and
($1 = 11605.0000 Indonesian rupiahs)
(Additional reporting by Yayat Supriatna; Editing by Richard