China has made significant progress in cultivating a new type of rice which is genetically resistant to the pyralid moth, a major threat to rice across the world.
Chinese scientists have completed a field experiment on a rice type called the "Huachi Series" in southeastern China's Zhejiang Province.
The experiment indicates that the rice, whose seeds were bred in a laboratory three years ago, has demonstrated a startling ability to resist the pyralid moth.
The experiment was conducted by the Institute of Nucleus Agriculture and the Center for Applied Insect Research of the Zhejiang University, with financial aid from the Ministry of Agriculture.
The experiment found that 99 percent of the pyralid moths that ate the leaves of the genetically modified rice died within four days.
A comparative field experiment also suggests that the genetically modified rice is free from attack by pyralid moths while 42 percent of rice shoots in a comparative control group were attacked.
According to Shu Qingyao, chief scientist of the program, they so far have developed two sub-types of the rice, namely KMD1 and KMD2, both demonstrating pyralid-resistant ability without unwanted side effects.
Shu and his colleagues developed seeds of the rice in collaboration with the University of Ottawa and obtained the go-ahead from the Ministry of Agriculture to start the intermediary test in 1999.
During the intermediary test, the rice type is grown on an experimental basis.
The Ministry of Agriculture has made strict stipulations governing the development and spread of genetically modified organisms with agricultural value to ensure biological safety.
No genetically modified organism will be allowed commercial promotion unless licensed by the ministry after an extensive experiment and review process.
The process consists of a lab experiment, the intermediary test and a test in the environment, each of which may take years.
So far, the ministry has only licensed two types of pest-resistant genetically modified cotton for commercial promotion.
The pyralid-resistant rice developed by Shu and his fellows is now in the critical phase of real environment testing.
If they complete the phase successfully, they may then apply to the ministry for permission for commercial production.
In the next stage, the researchers will concentrate on research into the biosafety of the rice type.
The pyralid moths are the top killer of rice and reportedly cause damage to about 10 million hectares of rice each year in China.
So far, there has been no effective measure to eliminate the pest in the world other than the use of pesticides.
(China Daily 07/25/2001)