GM rice trial CSIRO Plant Industry, in collaboration with Charles Sturt University and NSW Department of Primary Industries, has successfully conducted a field trial of genetically modified (GM) rice in 2005-2006 under the permit (DIR 052/2004) of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) issued on 18 February 2005, see www.ogtr.gov.au/rtf/ir/dir052notific.rtf Purpose of the trial The GM rice trial was Australia's part of an the seedling vigour gene it has landed in. Using international effort to identify the function of this process the scientists hope they will identify each of the rice genes predicted from the genes that may improve nutritional value or genome sequence. have agronomic importance. Switching on or off the function of each gene, If the location of useful genes is known they can using genetic modification, helps to identify be 'flagged' and used in conventional breeding what trait that gene is responsible for. In to determine if individual plants contain that particular CSIRO Plant Industry, NSW particular gene and therefore the desired trait. Department of Primary Industries and their There are no plans to develop commercial GM collaborators in the NSW Agricultural Genomics rice varieties as a result of this trial. Centre, are hoping to find genes that may improve nutritional value or have agronomic Herbicide and antibiotic resistance importance for the Australian rice industry, such The gene construct that has been inserted into as high vigour. the GM rice includes either herbicide resistance Understanding rice gene function and or antibiotic resistance. This is done to easily identifying useful rice genes could lead to trace the gene construct. breeding improved rice, including through The herbicide and antibiotic resistance allows conventional breeding. for those rice plants that have been There are no plans to develop commercial GM successfully modified to be quickly and easily rice varieties as a result of this trial. Within the identified. If the rice is sprayed with herbicide trial scientists have looked at possible gene (for example) the plants that survive are the flow or cross pollination, if any, between GM ones that have the new gene construct. rice and non-GM rice and found gene flow of The GM rice in this trial is not being grown for less than 0.006 per cent. its herbicide or antibiotic resistance and there is no intention to breed herbicide or antibiotic The GM rice resistant GM rice. The herbicide and antibiotic The GM rice in this trial was genetically resistance traits are only used in the laboratory modified by randomly inserting a gene phase of the trial. construct. The gene construct switches off the activity of the rice gene it 'lands' in. Cross pollination For example the gene construct may land in the Rice is a self pollinating plant, the pollen of gene that is responsible for causing seedling which is short lived (5 minutes) and there are vigour. If the gene lands in the seedling vigour no known insect pollinators. It is therefore gene it will switch it 'off' causing the seedling to highly unlikely cross-pollination by wind with lack vigour and as a result grow slowly and other rice plants outside of the trial area would become stunted. have occurred. In the field trial the scientists observe if the Part of the trial was used to determine if there is seedling lacks vigour and work backwards to any gene flow, or cross pollination between the find the easily recognisable gene construct and GM rice and non-GM rice on the trial site. Herbicide (BASTA) resistant GM rice was used The site has been closely monitored during and as a pollen donor in this gene flow experiment. after the trial period. Non-GM herbicide sensitive rice grown around these GM plants were harvested and their GM Rice Planting seeds were tested to see if it is herbicide GM rice seedlings were raised in special water (BASTA) resistant to determine if any gene flow tubs at the site and transplanted into two bays has occurred. in November 2005. Conventional seed for the gene flow experiment was also sown in one bay. Between November 2005 and April 2006 measurements were taken and observations made of the growing rice plants. Some of the rice planted did show different traits which may be of agronomic interest. The scientists are now following up with their laboratory work to determine which genes were responsible for the changes. In May 2006 the rice was harvested from the Dr Narayana Upadhyaya inspecting the site and taken back to Canberra for further extent of gene flow in a follow-up planting of research. All transport of GM material both to harvested seeds from the gene flow trial and from the site was carried out in accordance with OGTR requirements to ensure its safe The trial site containment. The trial was located at Charles Sturt University After harvesting, the site was burnt to remove campus in Wagga Wagga. The site is 85km all remaining GM plant material. 20 per cent of CSIRO Plant Industry 2008 from the nearest commercial rice crop and is the seeds harvested from the gene flow also geographically isolated from naturalised experiment were grown in the 2006-2007 wild rice populations and populations of native season to seedling stage and sprayed with rice species. BASTA to measure the gene flow. Monitoring of the site for any volunteer rice seedlings The trial site was 0.03 hectares, or 3 bays of continued for more than 12 months. Since there 13m by 7.7m each. It was surrounded and was no detection of any rice plants during this completely enclosed with bird netting. It was monitoring phase, the OGTR has now officially also surrounded by mice restrictive sheeting signed-off the trial site. buried 50cm deep and protruding 50cm which then attaches to the netting. The trial site was Findings from this research will soon be further enclosed within a 2m boundary fence. published in scientific journals and made public.