[Paleopsych] BBC: GM rice praised in Chinese study
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Fri Apr 29 15:39:03 UTC 2005
GM rice praised in Chinese study
By Roland Pease
BBC Science correspondent
Rice growers in Yunnan Province, south-west China
GM companies promise higher yields from fields
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.
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.
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