What impact will Golden Rice have on biodiversity in the places where it is grown? Will it endanger wild rice varieties?

Golden Rice will only be released to farmers for cultivation after national regulators have determined that it is safe for the environment, in part based on studies that assess the potential impact of Golden Rice on biodiversity.

Based on six years of study so far, the genetic trait that produces beta carotene in the rice grain does not appear to make Golden Rice plants stronger than other rice varieties. Therefore Golden Rice is unlikely to harm biodiversity by becoming a weed.

Golden Rice is also unlikely to impact biodiversity by endangering wild rice through cross-pollination (outcrossing, or gene flow) for reasons that apply to all cultivated rice.

  • Rice is typically self-pollinated and the frequency of cross-pollination is low. 
  • Cross-pollination in rice is rare if plants are separated by a short distance of a few feet or meters.
  • Cross-pollination is uncommon unless the rice plants are flowering at the same time. 
  • This means that wild rice species won't usually cross-pollinate naturally with cultivated rice unless they are growing close together and flower at the same time.
  • Compatible wild rice species may not be found growing close to cultivated rice varieties. For example, only one compatible wild rice species has been reported in the Philippines, in a single location. 

More important, should cross-pollination with wild rice occur, Golden Rice is unlikely to endanger diversity in wild rice because the genetic trait would not make the plants stronger or weaker than others.

Read more about IRRI’s work to conserve rice through the International Rice Genebank, the biggest collection of rice genetic diversity in the world.

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