Genetically altered rice could solve Japan’s pollen allergy problem

By RocketNews24

Good news for all those who live in Japan and suffer from pollen allergies. Scientists have genetically modified rice in an attempt to desensitize the body to that nasty Japanese cedar pollen that causes all of the sneezing, mask-wearing and eye-watering every spring.

While surgical masks are used year-round in Japan, there is a significant increase in masked citizens every year from February to April when the Japanese cedar trees are scattering their pollen throughout the country. It’s believed that about one-third of Japanese citizens experience allergic reactions to the pollen, giving the government cause to deem it a national problem.

Scientists at Jikei University School of Medicine in Tokyo have singled out the agent in the pollen that causes our immune systems to attack the normally harmless substance. The idea is that if you start intaking the agent a little bit at a time, your body will stop seeing it as the enemy and thus, not react, even when exposed to the substance in higher quantities. It’s a technique called allergy immunotherapy. Usually this desensitization process is done through shots or pills (or by eating lots of strawberries), but because so much of the Japanese population is effected by hay fever and everyone eats rice, scientists thought of a more user-friendly method of medicating: modifying rice to include small amounts of the allergen.

The gene recombination center of the Satake Corporation, which handles agriculture products such as rice and grains, is calling the modified rice “Allergy Relief Rice.” The rice was tested in early 2014 in a small study of 30 people. Those who ate the rice every day showed only a slight increase in immune response or symptoms in the spring, even when the pollen was in full bloom. The control group, however, saw as much as four times more immune cells in their blood during allergy season and also experienced the usual symptoms associated with hay fever.

Researchers at the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS) are doing further research to make the “Allergy Relief Rice” even more effective. They are also concerned with keeping the regular rice and modified rice separate, as there are strict rules and regulations about rice, but that’s a story for another day.

Of course, there is still a lot of research to be done, but we could be looking at a hay-fever-free society in the coming years. And to think that it could all be done just by eating rice every day, something most Japanese people are happy to do anyway.

Source: Asahi Shimbun

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Japanese Scientists Engineer Pollenless Cedar Trees, May Be Too Late to Alleviate Japan’s Growing Hay Fever Problem -- How tired of allergies are you? Thanko hopes enough to wear this giant USB-powered mask -- Warm Up Your Juicers! Substance Discovered in Strawberries Alleviates Allergy Symptoms

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I hate Japanese rice. Thank god I do not have that pollen allergy.

-25 ( +3 / -28 )

This is great news! I'd gladly eat this rice if it means less bazooka sneezing, waterfall nose, and hinomaru eyes.

I hope they find this safe and put it out on the market this spring.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

I'd rather have to suffer the occasional sniff rather than eat genetically modified rice (or any modified food come to that).

0 ( +10 / -10 )

everyone eats rice

Lucky everyone!

there are strict rules and regulations about rice, but that’s a story for another day.

In other words, this (fortunately) hasn't a hope in hell of being approved without releasing the floodgates and having Monsanto crashing down on us?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

... or instead of this insanely complicated treatment, which isn't a cure since this type of immunotherapy does require periodic renewal, they could actually just solve the problem by chopping down the cedar trees.

... but no, apparently that is too straight-forward a solution and instead they're encouraging people to take an unnecessary medical treatment with a product that has the potential to cause other health problems.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

This is just never going to happen. Can you imagine the brouhaha there would be if anyone tried to alter the venerable, sacred ancient tradition of unique Japanese rice? Why, to modify it would be to suggest it could be improved upon, and that is tantamount to blasphemy in this neck of the woods.

Does anyone else remember former Governor Ishihara's promise several years ago to remove the cedar trees which cause the allergies? I'm shocked, shocked to learn that the promise was never kept, although the campaign was generously funded.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

No thanks, I want my rice natural, next you'll find the government making "happy rice" that contains something to make people happy.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

japanese rice is pretty gross as it is. Best rice is from S. Korea. Seems like in japan, the best rice has the least flavor. I could care less about pollen, doesn't affect me.

-17 ( +3 / -20 )

There are unintended consequences. Pollen flies so it will spread to other fields. One out it will spread. Then there are effects on people that may not be seen for years. Today may produce is genetically altered and you don't even know it since it is not identified.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Reckless - I think you are missing the point. The suggestion is to genetically modify a natural food source that is eaten by nearly all Japanese every day to rectify a man made problem being the mass planting of Cedar tree forests. And gogogo (with the nice photo) makes a good point. If rice can be genetically modified to stop hay fever then why stop there? Falling population? Let's just tweak the rice with some mice or rabbit genetic goodies to get people breeding again. It is a very slippery slope to go down once you try to modify nature to correct human mistakes and failings.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Tweaking it genetically may have short term benefit but long term negative effect. Im not very enthusiastic about this solution. It's basically going against nature. I remember the government was offering a shots for high school girls to avoid cancer caused by STD, those girls that received shots actually have developed nervous system related issues. So thumbs down for this solution :-(

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Putting in something that people are allergic to could have serious side-effects for some, even if it works for others. In any case, I notice this would be kept 'strictly separate' -- the reason stated that genetically modifying rice falls under very strict standards, but more likely so that they could charge a fortune for it and insist you eat it 'every day' for it to have an effect. In any case, I'm betting the result, if positive, would be short-lived, and people would suffer stronger symptoms before too long.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Mask sales would go down... oh no! ;)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is pretty much wishful thinking. The sugi kafun is a persistent irritant and the only way to stop this problem is to start the mother of all forest fires and denude most of Japan's mountains until they can be replanted with trees that don't produce pollen spores.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Gm foods may do more to your body than we imagine!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Tell me what is worse, taking GM foods or taking medicine for your allergies and dealing with the side effects later on due to long term use? I think I will go with the GM food as the sugi season kills me as it takes medicated eye drops, medicated nasal spray (which is a steroid), and usually the strongest allergy medicine on the market in Japan.

Of course I can leave Japan and go back to Southern California and solve my allergies problem as they will clear up real fast.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Rubbing ice on my nose seems to work for me but can't do that all day, maybe next time I will try an ice collar or something like that, to keep head cool. Thinking stressful thoughts also seems to cause, at least a mindful attempt to reduce stressful thoughts can give immediate relief to hay fever symptoms, so maybe meditation would counter hay fever.

Never had allergies til I moved to NorCal/BayArea many years ago, and then only had them after using double dose of cleaner in a carpet steam cleaner, first time we tried it. Whole family had hay fever that night, and seasonal allergies most years after that, and the kid born after that doesn't have any, the toddler we already had then still has allergies in his teens, though. Noticed a few years we do have a clump of cedar trees a few blocks away, with lots of pollen flowers on them, and grass-covered hills several miles away. In season lots of pine pollen around, gutters and cars can be streaked with it.

Haven't had a problem last few years, I think, maybe due to cooler temps around summer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Japanese cedar pollen that causes all of the sneezing, mask-wearing and eye-watering every spring."

Great! Please let a Corporation help direct their War on Cedar! Death to Cedar! And Cedar Pollen! Cedar's vicious companion! Can we please give as much of tax resources to Cedar Pollen Death as possible!? Damn Cedar! The enemy of a free society! When will they learn!? When will they learn!?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A reforestation program aimed at reducing the number of cedar trees would be a better solution, especially with a government as spend-happy on public works as Japan's. But I suppose if they offered these magic beans for sale, a few people would try them. Not me. I'm not worried about "happy rice" or any of that alarmist stuff, but the kind of sticky rice prevalent here clogs my pipes for days after I eat it. I'd rather sneeze than go around feeling like a sack of wet rice. I start popping pills before pollen season and take two a day all the way through it. Worked wonders for me last year after a miserable 2013 where it felt like someone had packed sand in my nostrils and sprayed salt water in my eyes all day, every day.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hang on, M. Shmidlap suggests a life threatening health issue. Pills et al, but where are these threats treated as public health issues? One would hope prevention and protection from cedar pollen is as simple as spraying water over large areas to mat pollen. If serious, simple prevention is nearly costless. Water damps pollen.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Digging a hole in the ground and using a ladder to wash the basement windows again? More research and info about autoimmune disease, chronic inflammation, stress, and lack of sleep would be better, although more difficult to promote to the public. My sensitivity to allergens in the environment are dependent on my diet, stress levels, and sleep. I know others who respond the same way.

so much of the Japanese population is effected by hay fever Not affected?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I say "No" to GMO!!! >_<

1 ( +2 / -1 )

or instead of this insanely complicated treatment, which isn't a cure since this type of immunotherapy does require periodic renewal, they could actually just solve the problem by chopping down the cedar trees.

I take it you have no idea how they got there in the first place huh? Chopping them down would do more harm to the environment and create a plethora of other problems.

Reforestation with other native species of trees would be more appropriate and this problem could be eliminated over time.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I'm more concern about the cost of purchasing the seeds to grow these rice field for the agricultural industry. Also the type of long term and latent side affects that GNO foodstuff that often come to light after years of usage.

Ask the Indians farmers about how they felt on using Monsanto seeds. And having to repurchase at ridiculous price because the second generation won't grow unless you purchase annually from Monsanto.

Is it really good or another money grab?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Usually this desensitization process is done through shots or pills

Yeah, shots or pills, the dosage of which can be controlled and adjusted to the individual, versus a bowl of rice, which you might give to your baby. I would stick with the shots or pills, I think. This whole way of thinking is just weird anyway. Rice is food. Just leave it alone.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Please! Not more Frankenfood! When will this genetic engineered food madness stop?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I am surprised how many people react negatively by thinking about this rice as "food" instead as a "drug", and not even a finished drug but just a step in order to produce the real one.

Makes no sense worrying about poor farmers having to buy it at high prices or having everybody eating it without control, this kind of GMO product is regulated very strictly and it would never be treated (nor had the same price) as simple rice.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

GMO in Japan? I think not.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Simply put no GSM,S are safe.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Or how to avoid 1 trap to jump in 100's later on....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan joining the fight!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not interested in the GM "solution" - too many unknown and unknowable variables.

However, quite a few years ago a friend of mine recommended drinking caffeine-free rooibos tea. Can get it at Costco and is pretty cheap. Worked wonders for me and essentially cured my pollen and dust allergies. Did the same for him.

Just a caveat. You'll need to start drinking it a few months before pollen season kicks in, and at least a couple of cups a day. I still drink it to keep it from returning.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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