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.