Biotech Updates

Salt-tolerant Rice Offers Hope for Global Food Supply

September 16, 2010

Rice, the staple food for billions of people around the world, which is very susceptible to salt has been improved to resist saline stress through genetic modification, says the news release from the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics. Center scientists have inserted a gene which  modified rice to increase the number of salt-transporting proteins in specific cells in the rice root. This resulted in salt being trapped in the root where it is less harmful and avoiding its effect to the vulnerable upper part of the plant.

Dr. Darren Plett, lead researcher of the study, says that the new GM technique is an "efficient and robust biotechnological approach" to help rice grow in soils with high salinity. "Our results provide a new approach for genetic modification to increase the tolerance of crops to the toxic sodium ion (Na+), which is a major environmental stress. Successful genetic engineering efforts using this technology should assist in global food production. The same technology can be used to improve the nutrient levels within rice grain, which would be very important for consumers the world over," Dr Plett added.

The results of this work have been published in the online peer-reviewed science journal PLoS ONE. Work is now underway to transfer the technology to wheat and barley. PLoS ONE paper:

The original news article can be viewed at