Background - 15 February, 2007
Rice has been part of our staple diet around the world for over 10,000 years, it is cultivated in 113 countries - in China alone there are 75,000 varieties. Rice production accounts for 11 percent of the world's arable land, or 500 million hectares, 90 percent of which is produced on Asian farms of less than one hectare.

Yi woman harvesting rice, Yunnan Province, China

So far field trials, mainly of Bt rice, have been conducted in the US, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Colombia, India, Iran, France, Italy, Spain, Japan and the Philippines.

Studies of the potential ecological risks of GE rice show that there is a high risk of 'transgene escape' (gene flow) from GE rice to non-GE rice varieties. Research also shows that GE rice out-crossing may threaten wild rice varieties.

The first GE rice on the market is likely to be a LibertyLink (glufosinate) tolerant variety developed by Bayer. Indications are that it could be commercially grown in the US as early as 2005. There are many more GE rice varieties in the pipeline, including Monsanto's Roundup tolerant rice, Bt rice, and rice resistant to bacterial blight.

It is also possible that the Chinese government will try to commercialise Bt rice in 2005. Under Chinese regulation, there is no requirement for the public to be informed and consulted before a GE crop is approved for commercialisation. Once an application reaches the Ministry of Agriculture, the ministry will commission research institutes to carry out environmental and safety assessments, which usually last from three to six months.

Commercialisation of GE rice in China would have regional and global impact. It is widely believed that India, the second largest producer and consumer of rice, and other rice producing countries (Thailand and Vietnam), may follow China's footsteps if it commercialises GE rice.

Find out more about the risk that GE rice poses to China, the work we recently carried out in the Yunnan province through the our Rice is Life website and slideshow.

Further reading

Tell your friends about the threat of GE rice and help us stop it now.

Rice at Risk: Will there be a choice with GE Rice?

Genetically Engineered Rice: Not Sustainable Agriculture

Check out our short film Rice: A way of life in Yunnan, China in Quicktime, Real Player and Windows Media.

Check out our short film Rice: A way of life in Yunnan, China in Quicktime, Real Player and Windows Media.