China is poised to begin the world's first large-scale planting of a major 'transgenic' crop. They may do a massive planting of a domesticated
rice crop that has been mixed with a gene from a wild rice species. This gives it resistant to types of destructive fungus. Thus, the crop can
result in much greater yeilds.
Previously, an attempt at large scale bioengineered plantings resulted in a large public outrcry against it. The Party stopped the plantings, and
hasn't actually said that it is planning on planting this crop. However many scientists in China are saying that this indeed is being considered.
Also, Monsanto recently halted a program to begin similar large scale plantings of modified wheat crops in Canada and the US.
Scientists in China, the world's top rice producer and consumer, say Beijing is looking to mass produce Xa21 rice, which contains a gene from an
African wild rice.
The Xa21 strain, which was developed through publicly funded international research, is resistant to bacterial blight -- one of the most serious crop
diseases in Africa and Asia, which can cause devastating yield loss as it spreads in water droplets.
As it derives from a wild rice gene, it has emerged as front-runner in the race to be the first GMO rice crop, ahead of insect-resistant BT rice,
which contains a toxic bacterial gene.
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This has lots of implications, if it goes thru. Ultimately, someone is going to have to do something like this. This might be a decent case, since
the danger is that one might get hybridization between this modified rice and other domesticated and wild rices. In other words, the gene that might
potentially be spread is a gene that can already by spread and exists in the rice world.
It might also serve as a useful case-study, because there are already
strains of non-engineered domesticated rice that are resistant to
similar, if not the same, moulds. This can therefore show what are some of the minimal benefits to make such plantings worth it.
Even more so, the Chinese government is the entity that obtained the seeds; from the University at California at Davis. They hold the patent and
allow it to be freely distributed for research and Third World Usage. On top of that, the governement distibutes the seeds to the famers, and allows
them to keep the next generation of seeds and replant them, so it can be done in a theoretical one time dispersal.
In many ways then, this is a real test for GMO technology.
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