The following video shows a rice field planted with two varieties of rice, one a genetically modified rice designed specifically to be flood tolerant. Rice needs water but it apparently cannot naturally survive being completely submerged in water. Unfortunately areas good for growing rice are also prone to flooding which can have unpredictable adverse effects on rice production and the food supply.
This video is time lapse of the rice crop from planting to harvest over 90 days.
As the fields are planted they appear mostly identical and healthy. Until around day 21 when the entire area is flooded and the rice fully submerged. As the flooded rice field begins to drain around day 34 you can already see the devastation to the flood-intolerant rice.
Over the next 20 days it appears to me as if the flood-intolerant (some might try to say perhaps unfairly “natural”) rice isn’t going to survive at all. However by the end the “natural” rice has made a surprising come back.
However, on measuring the harvest, the genetically modified flood tolerant rice produced 2.4tons more per hectare than the “natural” rice.
There is no doubt that the possibility for improved food supplies via genetic engineering are possible. However, I still argue it is vital we ensure long term study on all GMO plants being introduced in the wild, not just before being sent to market. Yes, this particular rice appears to be flood tolerant, but how long before we know of any unintended consequences?
Let’s keep on engineering and let’s keep testing. But let’s also be patient and prudent.
For more information on the rice and this study see the video below or watch this talk where I first learned about this flood tolerant rice.