GM rice trial CSIRO Plant Industry, in collaboration with Charles Sturt University and NSW Department of Primary Industries, established a field trial of genetically modified (GM) rice in 2005. Application DIR 052/2004 for the GM rice trial was approved by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) on 18 February 2005, see www.ogtr.gov.au/rtf/ir/dir052notific.rtf [RTF, 32kb]. Purpose of the trial In the field trial the scientists observe if the seedling lacks vigour and work backwards to The GM rice trial is Australia's part of an find the easily recognisable gene construct and international effort to identify the function of the seedling vigour gene it has landed in. Using each of the rice genes predicted from the this process the scientists hope they will identify genome sequence. genes that may improve nutritional value or Switching on or off the function of each gene, have agronomic importance. using genetic modification, helps to identify If the location of useful genes is known they can what trait that gene is responsible for. In be 'flagged' and used in conventional breeding particular CSIRO Plant Industry, NSW to determine if individual plants contain that Department of Primary Industries and their particular gene and therefore the desired trait. collaborators in the NSW Agricultural Genomics There are no plans to develop commercial GM Centre, are hoping to find genes that may rice varieties as a result of this trial. improve nutritional value or have agronomic importance for the Australian rice industry, such Herbicide and antibiotic resistance as high vigour. The gene construct that has been inserted into Understanding rice gene function and the GM rice includes either herbicide resistance identifying useful rice genes could lead to or antibiotic resistance. This is done to easily breeding improved rice, including through trace the gene construct. conventional breeding. The herbicide and antibiotic resistance allows There are no plans to develop commercial GM for those rice plants that have been rice varieties as a result of this trial. successfully modified to be Within the trial scientists will also quickly and easily identified. look at possible gene flow or cross If the rice is sprayed with pollination, if any, between GM rice herbicide (for example) the and non-GM rice. plants that survive are the ones that have the new gene The GM rice construct. The GM rice in this trial was The GM rice in this trial is genetically modified by randomly not being grown for its inserting a gene construct. The herbicide or antibiotic gene construct switches off the resistance and there is no activity of the rice gene it 'lands' in. intention to breed herbicide For example the gene construct or antibiotic resistant GM may land in the gene that is rice. The herbicide and responsible for causing seedling antibiotic resistance traits vigour. If the gene lands in the are only used in the seedling vigour gene it will switch it laboratory phase of the trial. 'off' causing the seedling to lack vigour and as a result grow Trial leader Dr Narayana Upadhyaya slowly and become stunted. (left) and Dr Qian-Hao Zhu inspect the GM rice trial Cross pollination First year plantings Rice is a self pollinating plant, the pollen of GM rice seedlings were raised in special water which is short lived (5 minutes) and there are tubs at the site and transplanted into two bays no known insect pollinators. It is therefore in November 2005. Conventional seed for the highly unlikely cross-pollination by wind with gene flow experiment was also sown in one other rice plants outside of the trial area will bay. occur. Between November 2005 and April 2006 Part of the trial will be used to determine if there measurements were taken and observations is any gene flow, or cross pollination between made of the growing rice plants. Some of the the GM rice and non-GM rice on the trial site. rice planted did show different traits which may be of agronomic interest. The scientists are now Herbicide (BASTA) resistant GM rice has been following up with their laboratory work to used as a pollen donor in this gene flow determine which genes were responsible for the experiment. Non-GM herbicide sensitive rice changes. grown around these GM plants has been harvested and their seed will be tested to see if In May 2006 the rice was harvested from the it is herbicide resistant to determine if any gene site and taken back to Canberra for further flow has occurred. research. All transport of GM material both to and from the site was carried out in accordance The trial site with OGTR requirements to ensure its safe The trial is located at Charles Sturt University containment. campus in Wagga Wagga. The site is 85km Following on from the harvest the site was burnt from the nearest commercial rice crop and is to remove all remaining GM plant material. The also geographically isolated from naturalised bays will also be irrigated at least twice to wild rice populations and populations of native encourage germination of any stray seeds in rice species. the soil. Any volunteer seedlings will be The trial site is 0.03 hectares, or 3 bays of 13m destroyed. Monitoring of the site for any by 7.7m each. It is surrounded and completely volunteer rice seedlings will continue for at least enclosed with bird netting. It is also surrounded 12 months - so that they can be destroyed. by mice restrictive sheeting buried 50cm deep Findings from this research will be published in and protruding 50cm which then attaches to the scientific journals and made public when the netting. The trial is further enclosed within a 2m research is complete. boundary fence. The site will be closely monitored during and after the trial period.