Monday, 26 March 2012

GE Rice Can Take The Heat

Climate change has been highlighted in both the media and scientific communities as an issue, which can affect humanity in a variety of ways. The effect on global food production is one such issue with huge ramifications as temperature and other environmental factors greatly influence the sustainability and effectiveness of food production. Without preparation for the future in increasing the security of agriculture the effects of an unforseen change in yield or viability could be global. The relatively low tolerance of temperature change in rice farming is one such issue as it is one of the most basic and widely used food staples globally.

Rice is vital to the world’s agricultural food production and accounts for 21% of the worlds calorific needs as well as 76% of the calorific intake of the population of south East Asia (Fitzgerald et al. 2009). By increasing the minimum growing period temperature by 1°C the grain yield can be decreased by up to 10% (Peng et al. (2004). Due to the high reliance on, and susceptibility of rice it is clear that in a world of changing climate conditions the need to increase the security of rice production is of huge importance. This issue has been highlighted in an article written by Jie Zou, Cuifang Liu and Xinbo Chen working out of the Hunan Province Crop Gene Engineering Laboratory in China who have identified a series of proteins (three HSP100 proteins, seven HSP70 proteins, seven sHSPs, and a putative chaperonin 60 beta precursor) which have now been identified as Heat Sensitive Proteins (HSP). After identifying these HSPs and their respective concentrations under varying temperatures the experimenters were able to realize the role that these HSPs played. The HSPs were found to act as a repairing and protective asset allowing a higher tolerance of temperature variation. By increasing the concentrations of these HSPs in rice through Genetic Engineering the experimenters were able to drastically increase the tolerance and proliferation of the rice under an increased temperature.
These Genetically Engineered Transgenic Rice species performed consistently higher in heat tolerance testing. Through the over expression of ATHSP 101 the heat tolerance increased remarkably as plants had a 80% survival rate compared to the <50% survival rate of the control. A number of other proteins found to increase heat tolerance were also compiled by Jie Zou, Cuifang Liu and Xinbo Chen (Table 1).

Clearly the research conducted by Jie Zou, Cuifang Liu and Xinbo Chen is a recent advance in the field of Genetic Engineering. By attempting and successfully solving the problems faced by rice farmers around the world suffering due to a current global issue they have drastically affected the way in which an entire industry is conducted for the better by increasing the sustainability and commercial viability of farming a vital food source for millions.

Fitzgerald MA, McCouch SR, Hall RD (2009) Not just a grain of rice: the quest for quality. Trends Plant Sci 14:133–139
Peng S, Huang J, Sheehy JE, Laza RC, Visperas RM, Zhong X, Centeno GS, Khush GS, Cassman KG (2004) Rice yields decline with higher night temperature from global warming. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101:9971–9975
Zou J, Liu C, Chen X (2011) Proteomics of rice in response to heat stress and advances in genetic engineering for heat tolerance in rice. Springer China

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