Edited by Stuart J. Smyth, Peter W.B. Phillips and David Castle
Rice belongs to the genus Oryza under the family Poaceae. This genus comprises more than 22 species distributed across the tropical, sub-tropical and temperate regions of Asia, Africa, central and south America and Australia but only two species are cultivated: Oryza glaberrima (Steudel) and Oryza sativa (L.) (Lu, 1999), the latter of which comprises the most common rice varieties, indica and japonica. Rice is the most important food crop of the developing world and the staple food of more than half of the world's population, many of whom are also poor and therefore vulnerable to high rice prices. Worldwide, more than 3.5 billion people depend on rice for more than 20 per cent of their daily calorie intake (Seck et al., 2012). New rice varieties, such as those released during the Green Revolution in Asia, increased farmers' income and reduced the level of under-nutrition (Evenson and Gollin, 2003). Genetically modified (GM) crops are modified through transgenesis or recombinant DNA technology, in which a transgene is incorporated into the host genome or a gene in the host is modified to change its level of expression. Like 'conventional' breeding, genetic modification allows scientists to transfer genes within species but, in particular, it also enables transferring genes that encode for desired traits between species.
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