Ah, genetically modified foods! Love them or hate them, they’re here to stay, and you’ve probably been eating them your whole life. But there’s a new discussion bound to add fuel to the already combusted, complicated, and controversial debate: GM rice and the fight against climate change.
Strictly speaking, we’re not eating genetically modified foods, far from it. What we do consume, though, are genetically engineered foods. You may not see much of a difference, but trust me, there is. Genetically engineering of organisms has been a thing for as long as there has been agriculture, so, really, protests against it really are fighting the wrong issue. The bigger issue should be where to stop genetically engineering.
And this is probably why people are skeptical about this new type of rice.
The SUSIBA2 type of rice was initially conceived to increase crop yield. And it’s been successful. To get this result, genetic engineers took a strand of DNA from, surprise, barley, and managed to produce a whole new type of rice. Yet, as a true 21st century thing, it’s also having a tendency to fight the good fight against climate change.
How? Well, you may or may not know that methane gas has been responsible for a whole 20% of climate change since the Industrial Revolution. In such a long time, it’s easy to see how methane, the second most dangerous greenhouse gas after carbon, has done such damage. And much of this damage does not come from power plants, but from rice paddies.
Yes, rice paddies are a big danger causing climate change. Why? Well, because rice emits methane gas while growing. However, its new brother, the SUSIBA2, holds the answer to this problem.
The new GM rice produces just 1% of the methane released by ordinary rice. This is indeed an extraordinary breakthrough, as Princeton reviewer Timothy Searchinger put it. Yet, however good this rice is, the conservative policies of China along with the general opinion of the people which is against GMOs have been constant obstacles in the way of introducing the SUSIBA into paddies.
However, China has allowed limited testing of the rice for the past three years. The genetic engineer behind this discovery is Chuanxin Sun form the Agricultural Sciences University in Sweden. To come to this result, he has been working with both American and Chinese researchers.
The skepticism of China, the largest producer of rice, towards this new type may be the only thing standing now between us and a better, less polluted world.
Imabe source: ietravel.com