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According to an article in Nature, the publication of a recent paper in the
journal Science suggests that China may now be nearing the commercialization
of genetically modified (GM) rice, May 2005.
Nature says China is "poised" to commercialize GM rice, possibly within a
year. The paper in Science, by researchers from China and the U.S., reported
positive results from "pre-production" trials of GM rice in eight Chinese
The rice was found to reduce pesticide use by 80 percent, as well as having
a small positive effect on yields.
A senior U.S.-based plant scientist who advises the Chinese government on
agricultural policy says that China has taken a "no-risk" approach to GM
crops in recent years. The scientist says the paper may help satisfy the
Other observers have suggested that China has simply been taking advantage
of biotechnology concerns Europe in order to allow time for its domestic
biotechnology industry to catch up with foreign companies like Monsanto.
Nature says that this consideration may be addressed by the paper as well.
"Products from China's plant biotechnology industry could be an effective
way to increase both competitiveness internationally and rural incomes
domestically," the paper says.
Commenting on the results from the paper, Robert Ziegler, director-general
of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, says,
"These hard data are consistent with the objectives that create these
materials...It's not hype. It's real."
Chris Leaver, a plant biologist at the University of Oxford in the U.K.,
says that if China commercializes GM rice, other countries are likely to
follow. Huang reports that scientists from Vietnam and Indonesia have
contacted him about plans to introduce GM rice.
Some observers have expressed concern about the possibility of GM rice being
commercialized in China. They point to the lack of long-term health and
environmental studies, and evidence that transgenic rice is already being
sold illegally in the country.
A Japanese plant biologist and advocate of genetic modification, who asked
not to be named, said, "Unregulated distribution would definitely happen
within the country and across borders."
He worries that unregulated distribution could lead to ecologically
unbalanced agriculture. He argues that distribution of GM crops should come
only after farmers have been educated about the technology and its possible
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