Risk assessment



As our project is to use the rice as a factory to produce astaxanthin, and we also hope that aSTARice can serve as a kind of food in human’s daily lives one days, so we are very concerned about the safety of aSTARice.


We believe that risks are mainly embodied in two aspects. The frist problem is that the encoding products of marker genes might be toxic and allergenic potentially for human or livestock. Antibiotic genes might be transferred into gut microbes’ genome of humans or animals, increasing the resistance of the microbes to the antibiotic. The other one is that marker genes could spread through pollens or other ways into other organisms, which is termed gene flow. In population genetics, gene flow (also known as gene migration) is the transfer of alleles or genes from one population to another, which may lead to unimaginable damage to the ecological environment.


In order to reduce the effects of pollen-mediated crop-to-crop transgene flow on environment, we use a technique called selectable marker-free system, so the final aSTARice is a marker-free transgenic plants(MFTPs). We design a Cre-loxP based side-direct recombinant system to knock out hygromycin phosphotransferase gene, minimizing the effect of the selectable maker gene.


To further reduce the unpredictable threat of gene flow, we grow rice in pot culture and greenhouse-environment. What's more, we are also analyzing coding products by HPLC and trying to make sure that there is no harmful products in our rice.

Because we are the first team who choose rice as a chassis, we have to assess the safety for rice. Rice is the self-pollinated plant so that the genotype in the individuals is pure and homogeneous. The probabilities that two flowers take place cross-pollinated is one percent, and the distance of the spread of rice pollen is close to one meter. Rice isn’t included in the white line, so we make a checked-in on the official website.




Design for marker free



In this part, we used a site-specific Cre/loxP recombination to delete the selective marker. To delete the selective resistance gene in transgenic rice, a marker-free element was used to assemble into four-gene multigene vector. This marker-free element was placed between two loxP sites, and consists of a HPT (hygromycin) resistance gene expression cassette and a Cre gene expression cassette controlled by anther-specific promoter (Figure 1). When Cre gene was expressed in transgenic rice anther, the Cre enzyme deleted the marker-free element between two loxP sites. You can read more details, please click here!


Figure 1   The schematic diagram of the marker-free element. PV4 is an anther-specific promoter that drives Cre gene expression in anther.


Laws & regulations



The credibility of the policy about “aSTARice” transgenic rice project:


The World Health Organization


In 2002, the World Health Organization claimed in"20 questions about genetically modified food". All of the genetically modified products as so far in the international market have passed the risk assessment by the national authorities. These different assessments in general follow the same basic principles, including the environment and human health risk assessment. These assessments are transparent, they did not show any risk for human health.


The United Nations


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2003-2004, in "the food and agriculture condition report”clearly pointed out that the current existed modified crops and food is safe, the method used to test its safety is appropriate. So far, there is no safety accident caused by eating genetically modified crops. Millions of people eat the food derived from genetically modified crops, mainly maize, soybean and rape seed, but did not find any adverse effect.


The European


In 2009, the transgenic group of European food safety authority set out an authoritative scientific opinion about herbicide resistant and insect-resistantcrops that in terms of impact on the environment of human and animal health, gm is the same safe as non-gm, without any harm to health and the environment.


The United States


In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences of the United States claimed in “the influence on American agricultural sustainability ”. In general, compared to traditional agricultural technology for American farmers, genetically modified has created a huge environmental benefits and economic benefits.


The World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the US Food and Drug Administration and other international organizations and authorities have said the current approval of commercialization of transgenic food is safe and edible.




The Chinese government attaches great importance to the management work of the safety of agricultural genetically modified organisms, has formed a set of law which is suitable for China's national situation and consistent with international convention of laws and regulations, technical regulations and management system. As a result,it has achieved remarkable results in accordance with the implementation of safety management.


1. The legal system: the agricultural genetically modified organisms safety management regulations, the measures for the administration of agricultural genetically modified organisms safety assessment, the safety measures for the administration of import of agricultural genetically modified organisms, the identification measures for the administration of agricultural genetically modified organisms, the agricultural genetically modified organisms processing measures for examination and approval, the inspection and quarantine measures for the administration of entry and exit of genetically modified products.


2. The administrative management system: joint inter-ministerial meeting, agricultural genetically modified organisms safety management leading group, the provincial administrative department of agriculture, municipal (county) level administrative department of agriculture.


3. Technical support system, safety evaluation, detection, monitoring and technical standards.


Lab work




Members in our team have read the established laboratory safety principles of our school, and the topics in our safety training can be summarized as follows:


1. Non-biological operations:


  1.1 Handling toxic chemicals


  1.2 Emergency measures(such as how to tackle fire, electric leakage and negligent wounds)


  1.3 Instruments and facilities operation principles


2. Biological operations:


  2.1 Potential threats of our engineering bacterium (Escherichia coli)


  2.2 Effective protection during organism operations


  2.3 Waste materials handling measures


  2.4 Emission rules


Rules and Regulations


We have graduate students as our supervisors to ensure our operation correctness preventing safety problems. All of our team members have at least been working in a lab for 3 months and received biosafety training. The biosafety guidelines of our institution can be describe as follows:


1. All laboratories must be specially design and should set up strict management systems, standard operation procedures and rules.


2. Each staff should be equipped with personal safety equipment to avoid direct contact with the pathogenic microorganism or toxic chemicals.


3. New staffs should be well trained and pass the experiment test before performing experiments themselves.
4. One person at least in each laboratory should take charge of biosafety and establish a continuous biosafety training program.


5. Laboratories should establish emergency handling procedures and have routine inspection for all of the equipment.