GENET archive


2-Plants: GM rice praised in Chinese study

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GM rice praised in Chinese study
SOURCE: British Broadcasting Corporation, by Roland Pease
DATE:   28 Apr 2005

------------------- archive: -------------------

GM rice praised in Chinese study

Genetically engineered rice crops can cut costs for poor farmers and
improve health, a new Chinese study says.

In the study, published in the journal Science, Chinese and US
researchers looked at the use of insecticides in small farm trials.

They compared normal strains of rice with varieties modified to have
innate resistance to pests.

Chinese GM rice has been undergoing safety trials for nearly a decade
now, but is not yet fully licensed.

One of the arguments against genetically engineered crops is that they
benefit the seed companies, but not the farmers.

Health benefits

The authors of the new study disagree.

They found that Chinese farmers using rice engineered to resist insect
pests made huge savings on insecticides, compared with their neighbours
who had planted ordinary hybrid strains.

This had nothing to do with any specialist guidance the farmers received,
because they were left to manage their crops as they saw fit.

As well as cutting costs, the researchers say, the farmers benefited from
better health.

Pesticides in China are cheap and widely used, but poison an estimated
50,000 farmers a year, up to 500 fatally.

Dr Jikun Huang, who led the study, said he hoped it would help persuade
the Chinese government to license the commercial use of GM rice.

If it does, the impact beyond China's borders would be substantial.

The world's largest country would be taking a lead in commercialising a
major staple GM food developed in its own labs, which could transform the
GM debate across the world.

But campaigners expressed serious concerns over the study. Sze Pang
Cheung of Greenpeace China commented: "The Science paper states that
farmers cultivated the GE rice without the assistance of technicians, and
that quite a number of the randomly selected participants grew both
[genetically engineered] and conventional varieties on their small family

"In other countries, GE field trials are tightly regulated, monitored and
separated from conventional rice crops.

"The Chinese system of regulating GE field trials is failing. It looks
like GE rice has grown out of control under the very noses of the
scientists that were trusted to control it."

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  China poised for GM future as rice yields leap 10pc
SOURCE: Daily Telegraph, UK, by Roger Highfield;
DATE:   29 Apr 2005

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China poised for GM future as rice yields leap 10pc

Farmers growing genetically modified rice in field trials have reported
crop yields up by 10 per cent, pesticide use down 80 per cent and fewer
pesticide-related health problems.

The results, published today, place China on the threshold of
commercialising GM rice, the world's most important crop.

China's decision could influence the future of GM crops in the rest of
the world but it is taking longer to reach than many scientists expected.

"It's as though China is watching Europe while the world watches China.,"
said Prof Mike Gale of the John Innes Centre, Norwich.

Prof Michael Lipton of Sussex University added that China has delayed
making a decision because it is worried that, if it exports GM rice, it
could face a boycott because of the anti GM sentiment in Europe and
campaigning of green groups.

The first study of the impact of GM rice at farm level, in this case two
of the four GM varieties in farm-level preproduction trials, is reported
today in Science by researchers in China and at Rutgers University and
the University of California, Davis.

"The performance of insect-resistant GM rice in trials has been
impressive." said Prof Jikun Huang, the director of the Center for
Chinese Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Agricultural biotechnology may boost China's agriculture, improve the
nation's food security, and increase the income and improve the health of
rice farmers.

"Small and poor farm households benefit from adopting GM rice by both
higher crop yields and reduced use of pesticides, which also contributes
to the improved health of farmers," said co-author Prof Carl Pray of Rutgers.

China began GM crop research in the 1980s but, said Prof Huang: "One of
major reasons that commercialisation has not proceeded is that there has
been little independent evidence on whether GM food crops would really
improve farmer income and rice productivity."

To address this, the team conducted a farm survey in eight insect-
resistant GM rice pre-production field trial villages in China. The team
examined two genetically modified rice strains: the Xianyou 63, created
to be resistant to rice stem borer - which affects 70 per cent of rice
growing areas- and leaf roller through insertion of a Bacillus
thuringiensis gene, and the Youming 86 variety, which is insect-resistant
due to introduction of a resistance gene from the cowpea plant.

Overall, use of the GM rice enabled the farmers to reduce pesticide use
by 15 pounds per acre, an 80-per cent reduction when compared with
pesticide use by farmers using conventional varieties.

Prof Huang added: "Sixty-two per cent of the farmers who planted insect-
resistant GM rice applied no pesticides to their GM rice fields, and
nearly 90 per cent of them sprayed no pesticides for the borers."

The average yield of the GM Xianyou 63 and GM II-Youming 86 were six per
cent higher, and average yield of the GM Xianyou 63 variety alone was
nine per cent higher than that of conventional rice varieties.

"Annually, more than 50,000 farmers are poisoned in farm fields, of which
some 400-500 die," Prof Huang said. But the survey indicated that none of
the farmers in the trial reported experiencing adverse health effects
from pesticide use in either 2002 or 2003.


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