A case of man failing technology

The article ‘Farmers go against the grain’ in The Star online.

SO, Clearfield Rice has failed in Malaysia. For those who are new to Clearfield Rice, here is the background information. It is high-yielding and weed-resistance rice variety developed by BASF and further improved by the Malaysian Agricultural Research & Development Institute (MARDI) to suit local environment. MARDI took seven years to perfect it for local use with a grant of RM1.2 million.

Clearfield Rice is a non-transgenic (non-genetically modified) variety developed through traditional plant breeding techniques. It is tolerant to Newpath® herbicide, Clearpath™ herbicide and Beyond® herbicide. It provided a broad-spectrum control to some of the toughest rice weeds that translated into higher rice yield and easier weed management practice. With these traits, this superior rice variety gave a strong foothold to Malaysian farmers.

Released to the market in 2010 in Malaysia, farmers saw this as their saviour as they were battling “weedy rice”, a kind of weed that compete with rice for space and nutrients. Clearfield Rice produced nine tonnes of rice a hectare compared to the five tonnes produced by the common varieties planted previously by farmers.

Alas, all is in vain, thanks to farmers who failed to follow the recommendations. Seven years since its commercial cultivation, farmers have created an irreversible problem where the Clearfield Rice has cross bred with the weed, creating resistant weed.

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The Petri Dish is malaysia’s first dedicated science newspaper. Through The Petri Dish we aim to engage the public on the latest developments on biotechnology.