GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Stakeholder with interests in the risk and/or benefit assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are invited to take part in an online survey.

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Rice is a staple food in much of Asia. For thousands of years, farmers have been cultivating and breeding rice. Modern plant breeders are still trying to improve the ability of rice to defend itself against diseases. More and more, genetic engineering is being used to achieve breeding objectives. GM rice is now on its way to fields in several countries.

Rice, maize, and wheat are the world's most important crops. Rice makes up the main food source for almost half of the world's population.

Rice is grown in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Rice cultivation is primarily concentrated in China, India, and Southeast Asia. These regions make up 90 percent of the world's rice production, mostly produced by small-scale farmers. Thailand is the world's leading exporter. The most important rice producer in Europe is Italy.

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Traditional rice farming in Asia. Rice fields are flooded to control weeds and pests. The flow rate is critical: too rapid, and nutrients get washed away; too slow, and algae becomes a problem. Flooding fields is still a possibility with GM rice.

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Golden Rice (right): Enhanced in Vitamin A content, Golden Rice should help alleviate vitamin deficiencies causing eye diseases and blindness.

Herbicide resistant rice: Application submitted to the EU

Right now, no large scale production of genetically modified rice is taking place. Although a GM rice cultivar (LL62) has been approved in the US, farmers have not yet begun using it.

An approval application for the food and feed use of LL62 rice has been submitted to the EU. It is still undergoing safety evaluations.

This GM rice cultivar was genetically engineered to be resistant to an herbicide. This should make weeds easier to control than previously possible.

Controlling weeds and pests are the main reasons why 80 percent of the world's rice fields are flooded. Rice was not originally an aquatic plant. Rather, it was adapted to flooded conditions by breeding.

New concepts for combatting pests and diseases

Rice breeding is going on in many countries including projects being conducted at international agricultural research centres. Genetic engineering is among the various methods being used to meet breeding goals, namely, to develop robust, high yielding cultivars that require little or no spraying, custom tailored to specific regional conditions. Genetic engineering offers possibilites for conferring resistance to viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens. Other important goals include tolerance to drought and salinity.

China leads the pack in rice breeding research, where hopes are high for new, insect resistant cultivars. The Chinese government is currently carrying out systematic field trials on these new cultivars. Results have shown that most farmers using GM rice were able to completely stop spraying their fields. In contrast, conventional rice varieties are sprayed, on average, three to four times per growing season. The cultivation of GM rice in China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines is expected in the near future.

Golden Rice: Prevention of vitamin deficiencies

Other genetic engineering projects focus on altering rice's nutritional value. Golden Rice is the most well-known example of this.

Rice is known for having too little iron and vitamin A. In regions where rice is eaten almost exclusively, vitamin A deficiency is widespread. Insufficient vitamin A leads to vision problems, and in some cases, blindness. Researchers in Zurich and in Freiburg, Germany, with funding from international foundations and enterprises, succeeded in creating a rice cultivar offering beta-carotein, a metabolic precursor to vitamin A. Owing to its yellow color, it was called Golden Rice. Golden Rice also possesses increased iron content.

In 2004, Golden Rice underwent its first field tests and is to be available from 2011. Golden Rice will be provided free of cost to small-scale farmers in developing countries. 

Developing allergen-free rice

Projects are underway in Japan for developing rice cultivars that are less of a problem for people with rice allergies. In order to do this, researchers are trying to repress the activity of a gene that leads to the formation of an important allergen (AS-Albumin). As of yet, researchers have not been able to completely eliminate all traces of albumin.


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information


GMO Soybeans & Sustainability

Less soil erosion and fuel consumption: herbicide tolerant soybeans are promoting sustainable cultivation methods.


Glyphosate in European agriculture

Interview with a farmer

Glyphosate containing herbicides are not only used in fields with GM crops. They also allow conventional farmers to sow directly into stubble fields without ploughing. Glyphosate has replaced mechanical weed control in many crops and has had an important impact on agricultural practices and crop yields in Europe over the past few decades.

European Glyphosate Task Force

Crops and Cereals
Gm Plants: Cultivation and Futur Projects
Rape Seed
Sugar beet
December 4, 2008 [nach oben springen]

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