Rice research under way in Hawaii


Biotech companies have mostly focused on corn and soybean for creating genetically modified crops.

But research is also under way in Hawaii that would impact one of the state’s most widely consumed staples — rice.

BASF, a chemical company that also produces transgenic and non-transgenic seed, confirmed that rice is one of the crops it is researching at its Hawaii locations, based on Kauai and Oahu.

“In any given year we may grow corn, soybeans, rice, sunflower or canola on our acres for seed production,” Fran Rowland, company spokeswoman, said in an email.

“We are working on both GM and non-GM projects in all of these crops except sunflower, which is only non-GM.”

BASF’s transgenic rice could be launched around the turn of the decade, she said.

Genes originate from different rice varieties and arabidopsis thaliana, a winter annual flowering plant, according to Rowland.

“The value is in the enhanced yield performance and the possibility for farmers to grow these crops under more difficult conditions in a more profitable manner,” she said.

“Our yield traits will make a tangible contribution to sustainable agriculture for farmers in India and around the globe.”

There are other transgenic rice crops in development, including iron-enriched varieties.

BASF is one of five biotech companies in Hawaii.

It leases 1,000 acres on Kauai and has a small farm on Oahu.

Less than 150 acres is typically in production, with a portion of the land set aside for buffer areas, Rowland said.

 

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