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Bt Rice in China – Focusing the Non-target Risk Assessment

Source: Institute of Plant Protection

The roles of genetic engineering (GE) and other modern plant breeding methods in improving agricultural production are hotly debated among various stakeholders worldwide. A key concern is that planting of GE crops may pose risks to the environment, including the potential adverse effects on valued non-target arthropods and on the ecosystem services that they provided. To assess such risk, surrogate arthropod species have to be firstly selected. Although lots of studies need to be conducted to assess the potential effects of Bt rice on non-target arthropods, while the representativeness and the validation of the test species have been widely questioned by the related experts and the public. Recently, researchers at State Key Laboratory for Biology of Plant Diseases and Insect Pests, Institute of Plant Protection of CAAS have published a research paper on Plant Biotechnology Journal regarding the identification of non-target species to focus the environmental risk assessment for Bt rice in China.

Numbers of arthropod species (sorted by order) recorded in the rice-planting regions of Central and Southern China (area indicated in red). Total numbers of records are indicated beside the bars.

In the article, we compiled a comprehensive data set on herbivores, natural enemies, and their interactions in Chinese rice fields, and analyzed the Cry protein content in arthropods collected from Bt rice fields. Based on the data, the suitable set of test arthropod species were recommended, laying an important foundation for non-target risk assessment of Bt rice plants.

Simplified arthropod food web of rice in Central and Southern China and the content of plant-derived Cry2A protein in each arthropod species (other than target herbivores)

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By Yunhe Li