Genetically modified rice

Rice (Oryza sativa) is a staple food for many millions of people. No surprise, then, that rice is of interest for research into genetic modification (GM). GM rice isn’t yet grown commercially but that time may come.

Adam Barclay and Sophie Clayton at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) explain research into GM rice. There’s GM rice with ‘higher yield; increased resistance to pests, diseases, and herbicide; better tolerance of drought and salinity; improved nutritional value and health benefits; and higher nitrogen-use efficiency.’ These authors at IRRI tell us about the potential for GM rice. But they also say, ‘As of December 2012, commercialized GM rice had not yet become a reality – which means, farmers aren’t growing it and consumers can’t eat it yet.’

As you know I have an open mind about GM. For rice, as for other GM organisms, I’m concerned about biosafety. Superpests, superweeds… IRRI’s guiding principles in researching GM rice say that IRRI will always ‘adhere to the national biosafety regulations pertaining to GM plants of the country within which we are operating, comply with all relevant international biosafety regulations, and uphold our own high internal biosafety standards.’

Here’s an introduction to IRRI’s Institutional Biosafety Committee. They’re taking this seriously. If I see science about biosafe GM rice, I’ll let you know.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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7 Responses to Genetically modified rice

  1. EqFe says:

    I have some hope that some useful innovations might come out of GMO research for rice. SInce it’s not a majore crop in North America, there isn’t a lot of upside for Monsanto to create a roundup ready rice. I’d love to see GMO rice research into higher yields, perhaps increasing rice’s ability to extract nitrogen from the air, even perfecting the yellow\orange rice that held so much promise to produce beta carotene.

    • argylesock says:

      You may be right. Or people could grow and eat more carrots, or other yellow vegetables and fruit. If golden rice, scarecrow rice, flood-tolerant rice or any other GM rice is ever to be commercialised, I’d like to see the science about its biosafety.

      No doubt if there are business opportunities for GM rice, Monsanto and other companies will take those opportunities.

      • EqFe says:

        The early press for beta carotene rice stated as a fact (don’t know that it’s true) that juvenile blindness resulting from vitamine A deficiencies were becoming common. THe idea that small landholders were growing more grains and less vitamine rich veggies do to more people living on smaller plots of land in the developong world. The solution was gmo grain with beta carotene.

  2. argylesock says:

    I’ve heard that about GM ‘golden rice’ too. But I don’t believe that GM should always be called ‘the solution’ when people have limited access to land. If there’s a problem with juvenile malnutrition, leading to blindness, that’s truly a problem. Approaches to that problem could involve land reform, updates to horticulture, culinary education, improved trade and improved career opportunities. All in the context of political improvement.

    A biotech fix might come in, but as you know, I’m concerned about biosafety. I think that improvements due to GM crops might end up in the history books, short-lived improvements like those due to antibiotics.

    Easy for me, and for you, to make these judgements in the comfort of our rich-world homes. My science blog here gives me opportunities to learn from people in other parts of the world.

  3. Pingback: Golden Rice: a golden ticket to health, or fool’s gold? | Science on the Land

  4. Pingback: A Roundup-ready superweed which grows superfast, even if Roundup isn’t there | Science on the Land

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