Even though rice is the staple food of a majority of the world's population, it has also led to an increase in atmospheric methane, a greenhouse gas. In an attempt to provide a solution to the problem, an international team of scientists has created a new variety of genetically modified rice that can help reduce the methane emissions from rice paddies.
A team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Sweden's University of Agricultural Sciences, and China's Hunan Agricultural University and Fujian Academy collaborated develop the GMO rice by introducing a new gene. The researchers claim that cultivation of the new variety will produce rice paddies that yield no methane.
During development of the genetically modified rice, named SUSIBA2, the researchers introduced a single barley gene into the genome of the common rice. According to the researchers, the resultant rice starves off methane-producing bacteria in the soil. Therefore, when grown, it is able to better feed its leaves, stems and grains, resulting in a superior-quality rice variety.
In addition to not emitting the greenhouse gas, researchers say that the new rice variety will be packed with other properties when grown, such as increased starch and biomass. The complete details of the study have been published in the journal Nature.
"The need to increase starch content and lower methane emissions from rice production is widely recognized, but the ability to do both simultaneously has eluded researchers," said DOE scientist Christer Jansson.
"As the world's population grows, so will rice production. And as the Earth warms, so will rice paddies, resulting in even more methane emissions. It's an issue that must be addressed."
The press release states that nearly 17 percent of global methane emissions, or 100 million tons, come from rice paddies. Even though the percentage is small when compared to the total annual emissions of carbon dioxide, the contribution is still worth discussing since methane is 20 times more effective in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.