Engineering

From genetically modified rice to supertall skyscrapers, these 10 innovations are changing the world.
SUSIBA2: Rice That Fights Global Warming
More than half the global population relies on rice as a regular part of their diet. But rice paddies have a downside for the planet too: They produce as much as 17 percent of the world’s total methane emissions. So Christer Jansson, a plant biochemist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, spent the past 10 years developing SUSIBA2, a genetically modified rice plant that emits almost no methane. Splicing a single barley gene into common rice, his team found, changed the way the plant handles photosynthesis: Instead of sending carbon to the roots, to feed the bacteria that produce methane, the plant directs it toward the grain and leaves, increasing the starch level and yield. “It’s a win-win,” says Jansson. The rice performed well in field tests in China, and now scientists are studying how cultivation affects it. Jansson says there’s no telling when the rice might be commercially available, but considering how severely methane can accelerate climate change, its eventual impact could be huge. Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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