Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Beer in the News

It doesn't happen ofter but I'm on Budweiser's side on this one.
Rice used by Anheuser-Busch Cos. to brew Budweiser beer is tainted with an experimental, genetically engineered rice strain, according to an analysis released yesterday by the environmental organization Greenpeace. Three of four samples of unprocessed rice from the beer maker's mill in Arkansas showed the presence of the strain, Bayer LL601, Greenpeace said.


How dangerous is the gene? Not very. It’s also found in varieties of corn, soybeans, and canola approved by the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration—food that millions of people have been eating safely for years. And in November, the USDA finally approved the rice itself as safe to eat.

The rice flap isn’t deadly, but it does demonstrate a need for reform in the inefficient way genetically enhanced crop varieties are approved. Drew Kershen, a professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, argues that once a trait has been approved, it should be approved for all varieties and all crops. Until the rules are changed, harmless food will be fodder for bogus scares...

It was weird seeing this story today after I heard on NPR, this story
"Even a crop like rice, which grows in standing water, cannot stand to be totally submerged. It'll drown like any other plant," Zeigler says.

That usually takes just three or four days. But scientists at the International Rice Research Institute have discovered a gene that lets rice essentially "hold its breath" for up to two weeks. It's called the submergence 1 gene — sub-1 for short.

Dave Mackill led the team that discovered the gene. He walks along an earthen levee that separates two rice fields, each about the size of a tennis court. On the left is a field planted with rice carrying the sub-1 gene.

"It looks pretty much like a normal crop. This field was under submergence for 12 days," Mackill says. And despite its prolonged submersion, it's thick with brilliant emerald stalks that are nearly waist-high.

The paddy on the right was also submerged for 12 days. The rice there is patchy and stunted. It's the exact same variety, but without the sub-1 gene.

Zeigler says that rice plants with the flood-resistance gene have huge potential in places like Bangladesh. "If they produce the way we expect they will, it will be a massive impact in that part of the world. I mean it will be a spectacular demonstration of the power of science to make a difference in people's lives."

So, in reality, we probably need more genetically modified rice to sustain life in the poorer regions in the world. Greenpeace is sullying the name of genetically modified crops and making the environment a worse place by making these people devote more farmland to growing rice. Thanks Greenpeace!

By the way, Budweiser uses rice because it's cheap, not because it makes beer taste better. Greenpeace ought to be getting them to use better tasting grains.


  1. I see a marketing oppo. If they can get bayer to put aspirin in their rice, they can market Bud as a hangover free beer.