Can Golden Rice and organic rice co-exist?
In markets and supermarkets around the world, there are lots of choices for consumers–including the choice between organic and conventional food. This is good for consumers as they can select whatever product they prefer that is within their budget.
Rice is a staple food for almost half of the global population and is one of the most important crops in Asia. Rice consumers in this region also have lots of choices among different types of rice that they can select based on price and their quality preferences.
This is all made possible because in many countries, agricultural policies encourage and support different kinds of crop production, including conventional and organic-based farming. Therefore, farmers are able to grow the crops of their choice in the manner they choose, even when their farms are next to each other.
Farmers who produce organically grown crops currently co-exist with farmers who grow genetically modified crops and crops grown in conventional ways. ‘Co-existence’ is the practice of growing different kinds of crops, crops grown in different ways, or crops for different customers nearby or next to each other, while keeping the crops separate so they don’t mix and so their economic value is not affected.
Golden Rice could likewise co-exist with other crops, including other types of rice and rice grown in other ways such as in organic agriculture. Golden Rice is unlikely to impact organic agriculture through cross-pollination—also known as outcrossing or gene flow—for reasons that apply to all cultivated rice. Cross-pollination in rice is rare if plants are separated by a short distance of a few feet or meters and it can only occur when rice plants are flowering at the same time. Moreover, rice pollen is normally viable for only a few minutes after flowering. All these factors mean that organically-grown rice won’t usually cross-pollinate with another cultivated rice variety unless they are growing close together and flower at the same time.
To further minimize the possible accidental mixing of Golden Rice, if it is approved, with other rice varieties, we plan to work with rice producers in areas where Golden Rice could be grown to develop guidelines for cultivation, harvest, transport, storage, and processing of rice to help keep it separate.