Genetic medical rice passes safety test

July 6, 2009 at 3:16 PM
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TSUKUBA, Japan, July 6 (UPI) -- Japanese researchers say a new genetically modified rice designed to fight allergies has successfully passed its initial safety tests.

Fumio Takaiwa and colleagues at Japan's National Institute for Agrobiological Sciences said the first generation of genetically modified crops was designed to help keep crops weed and insect free. But the next generation of transgenic crops, they said, is being developed to directly benefit human health and includes crops that produce higher levels of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, or even medicines and vaccines.

The scientists say they've developed a transgenic rice plant that has been genetically engineered to fight allergies to Japanese cedar pollen, which is a growing public health problem in Japan affecting about 20 percent of the population.

In laboratory studies, the researchers fed a steamed version of the transgenic rice and a non-transgenic version to a group of monkeys every day for 26 weeks. At the end of the study period, the test animals did not show any health problems.

That initial demonstration suggests the allergy-fighting rice might be safe for consumption, the scientists said.

The research is reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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