China considering genetically modified rice

China is considering the use of genetically-modified (GM) rice as a way of lowering pesticide use, improving crop yields and increasing farm incomes, says the New York Times.

American and Chinese scientists compared traditionally-grown rice to GM rice and published their findings in a recent issue of Science. They found:

  • On equal-sized plots of land, GM rice farmers applied pesticides only once per season compared with 3.7 times per season for conventional rice.

  • Furthermore, the cost of pesticide for conventional rice is 8 to 10 times higher than the cost of pesticide needed for GM rice.

  • When controlling for characteristics of individual farms, GM rice yields are 6 to 9 per cent higher than traditional rice yields.

    Additionally, the need for less pesticide use means fewer adverse health effects for farmers. In fact, surveys of farming households in 2003 revealed that only 3 per cent of households farming GM crops experienced adverse health effects (such as headache, nausea and skin irritation), compared to 10.9 per cent of households farming traditional crops.

    Lastly, Huang Jikun, one of the authors of the Science study and director of the Agriculture Policy Research Centre in Beijing, estimates that GM rice would increase China's annual agricultural income by about $4 billion.

    Sources: David Barboza, Modified Rice May Benefit China Farms, Study Shows, New York Times, May 3, 2005; and Jikun Huang, et al., Insect-Resistant GM Rice in Farmers’ Fields: Assessing Productivity and Health Effects in China, Science, April 29, 2005.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 10 May 2005
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