GM rice genes spreading slowly

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Chinese researchers have been studying how the genes of genetically modified rice are spreading. They are finding that they are not spreading as quickly as they had feared, according to a study conducted in Chinese rice fields.

Researchers from Fudan University and the Fuijan Academy of Agricultural Sciences crossed a rice strain that was modified to carry an insect-resistant gene with a wild “weedy” rice strain. They then tested the survivability of these plants’ projeny four generations later.

Scientists compared survival rates of the GM rice with rice that had not been modified and with the original wild plant. These plants were tested under conditions of low and high populations of the insect.

They discovered that when pest pressure was high, the transgenic rice varieties had a “fitness” advantage in all fitness traits. However, when pest pressure was low, the GM hybrids did not outperform the unmodified wild rice.

Bao-Rong Lu, chairman of the ecology and evolutionary biology department at Fudan University in China, and a lead author of the study, said that by tracing the fitness of the first four generations of hybrids the researchers had shown that "GM rice will not cause serious environmental problems".

Several scientists welcomed the new study but claimed more research was needed to confirm the findings.

To read the findings, click here.

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