July 29, 2015

29/07/2015: GMO rice could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, study says

Image: Toshiyuki IMAI
Over half the people on the planet eat rice as a staple food, the Los Angeles Times reports. Growing rice emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas — to the tune of 25 million to 100 million metric tons of methane every year, a notable contribution to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

As the world’s population grows and needs more food, the problem is likely to get worse, but genetic engineering could help, a new study reports. By transferring a barley gene into a rice plant, scientists have created a new variety of rice that produces less methane while still making highly starchy, productive seeds. The development of the new rice strain is described this week in the journal Nature.

Finding a way to boost rice production while reducing methane emissions has been a goal for many years, said Chuanxin Sun, a plant biologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the lead author of the study. By engineering barley genes into the rice plant, “we demonstrated it’s possible to get these two traits with this technology,” he said.

When rice paddies are flooded, methane-producing bacteria thrive on the carbohydrates secreted by rice roots in the oxygen-free soils. The rice plant itself acts as a conduit, transmitting methane from the soil into the atmosphere.

Methane traps heat in the atmosphere with devastating efficiency: Over 20 years, it is 84 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, according to the most recent assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Read the rest of the LA Times article HERE.

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