This report by US and Chinese researchers analyses the impact of two insect-resistant GM rice varieties grown at eight trial sites in China. The authors studied crop yields, levels of pesticide application and whether farmers growing GM rice varieties reported fewer pesticide-related illnesses than non-GM farmers.

The study was carried out on pre-production trials, with data gathered from randomly selected households. External enumerators surveyed farmers and found that those growing GM rice applied pesticide less frequently than those growing non-GM rice (0.5 times per season as compared with 3.7 times by non-GM farmers). Yields of insect-resistant rice were 6 to 9 per cent higher than non-GM varieties. In addition, no farmer growing GM rice reported adverse health effects. By contrast, 8.3 per cent of farmers in 2002, and 3 per cent in 2003, reported feeling ill after applying pesticide to their non-GM rice crop.

These data on the impact of GM rice in pre-commercial trials are could pave the way for the introduction of other GM crops because the commercialisation of a major GM food crop such as rice is expected to influence the introduction of other GM food crops in the future.