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Review of GM rice expected agronomic and consumer benefits

Unlike for other major crops, no genetically modified (GM) varieties of rice have been commercialized at a large scale. Within the next 2-3 years new transgenic rice varieties could be ready for regulatory approval and subsequent commercialization, though. Given the importance of rice as staple crop for many of the world’s poorest people, this will have implications for the alleviation of poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Thus, policy-makers need to be aware of the potential benefits of GM rice. For this reason the researchers M. Demont – Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) – and A.J. Stein – International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) – have carried out an overview of the literature discussing the evidence on expected agronomic and consumer benefits of genetically engineered rice.

It has been found that while GM rice with improved agronomic traits could deliver benefits similar to already commercialized biotechnology crops, expected benefits of consumer traits could be higher by an order of magnitude. By aggregating the expected annual benefits, we estimate the value of GM rice to be US$64 billion per year. This is only an indicative value as more GM varieties will become available in future. Nevertheless, such a figure can help guide policy-makers when deciding on the approval or funding of biotechnology crops and it may also raise awareness among consumers about what is at stake for their societies.

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