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black rice

Genetically Engineered Crops: Rice


Rice photo: flickr,毛利人

Scientific name: Orzya sativa

Genetically Engineered Traits: Herbicide tolerance, insect resistance (bt), increased vitamin A content

Details of Genetic Engineering:

Rice genetically engineered to be resistant to glufosinate (developed by Bayer CropScience) has been approved (deregulated) in the US but is not yet for sale commercially as the company attempts to get approval in countries which import rice from the US as well.

As far as I know, no company in the US has produced bt rice, which has less to do with consumer fears than with the small amount of rice production in the US rather than consumer rejection, but that’s just a guess. The Chinese government has developed breeds of bt rice, but doesn’t grow them commercially because of the risk to their export markets, which is primarily to countries that reject genetic engineering (although Chinese rice exports are declining drastically as more and more of their production is needed to feed their own people).

White and Golden Rice Respectively

White and Golden Rice Respectively

Golden rice, which has betacarotene, which human bodies need to make vitamin A, was developed by in Swizerland in the 1990s. Almost all plants produce carotenoids like betacarotene in their leaves as part of the biological machinery that makes photosynthesis possible. Breeders can sometimes identify and propogate natural mutations which lead to the expression of carotenoids in other parts of the plant, two key examples are orange carrots* and orange cauliflower. Vitamin A deficiency is a major issue** in many countries were rice is the primary crop, so breeders have searched for decades for natural mutations at would create orange rice, without success.*** The initial breed of golden rice which used two genes, one from daffodile to promote the expression of carotenoids in the grains of rice was attacked as requiring people to eat more than a dozen bowls of rice a day to get their daily recommended vitamin A intake, new versions that replaced the gene taken from daffodil with a version of the same gene taken from corn have more than twenty times as much beta carotene. Golden rice is also not currently grown commercially as it, like ringspot resistant papaya, doesn’t have a powerful for-profit corporation to shepherd it through the complex approval processes of various nations.

About Rice: