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Genetically modified rice in China benefits farmers' health, study finds

Farmers growing genetically modified rice in field trials in China report higher crop yields, reduced pesticide use and fewer pesticide-related health problems, according to a study by researchers in China and at Rutgers University and the University of California, Davis.

Results of the study will appear in the April 29 issue of the journal Science.

"This paper studies two of the four GM varieties that are now in farm-level preproduction trials, the last step before commercialization" says study co-author Carl Pray, an agriculture, food and resource economics professor at Rutgers' Cook College who specializes in the economics of technology change in the agriculture of developing countries. "Farm surveys of randomly selected farm households that are cultivating the insect-resistant GM rice varieties demonstrate that when compared with households cultivating non-GM rice, small and poor farm households benefit from adopting GM rice by both higher crop yields and reduced use of pesticides, which also contributes to the improved health of farmers."

China began doing research on genetically modified agricultural crops in the 1980s. Although it has aggressively commercialized "Bt cotton," genetically modified to produce a natural pesticide against the bollworm, China has not developed any genetically modified food crops for the commercial market.

"This study provides China and other nations with objective, research-based information about whether GM food crops can actually improve farmer welfare," Pray said.

He and colleagues set out to conduct an economic analysis of data from eight rice pre-commercialization field trials in China. Their goal was to determine whether genetically modified rice was helping farmers reduce pesticide use in the fields, increasing yield and having any identifiable health effects on the farmers growing the genetically modified rice strains.

They examined data from field trials involving two genetica
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Source:Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey


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