Green rice will feed a hungry world

B. McPherson

A quiet, green revolution is taking place in the Philippines. A joint effort by plant scientists in China and the Philippines has developed “Green Super Rice” which builds on the heritage of IR8, the rice developed 50 years ago that saved millions from starvation.

Another revolution is needed now. By 2050, two billion more people will be living on Earth, many in areas where food is scarce. The changing climate is creating stressful conditions and lowered yields of many important food crops.

This revolution relies on plant scientists using selective breeding techniques but also the knowledge gained with regard to genetics. Instead of inserting non-rice genes into the plant makeup, the scientists working on green super rice can now pick and choose gene bundles from rice plants that exhibit the traits needed. For instance plant breeders looking for a drought resistant rice but high yielding can select a gene from a drought resistant rice and insert it into the high yielding variety.

Scientists working at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines have developed while working closely with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences rice ready for planting that is salt resistant, drought tolerant, disease resistant, high yielding without needing fertilizer or pesticide. Even better for poor farmers, the miracle rice was developed using public money so no royalties have to be paid to use the seed. The farmers will own the seed they buy and can save or sell it.

Millions of acres of newly developed flood resistant rice have been planted in India. The new rice suffered flooding and instead of dying thrived and increased their yield.

The lowest castes in India are given the worst land, and the worst lands in Odisha are prone to flooding,” says Zeigler. “So here is a very sophisticated biotechnology—flood-tolerant rice—that preferentially benefits the poorest of the poor, the Untouchables. That’s a helluva story, I think.” Nat. Geographic

While genetically modified (GM) plants such as corn and soy have greatly increased yields over the years, many questions arise as to their safety and environmental impacts.  The corporations such as Bayer and Monsanto that develop these Bt or Roundup Ready plants also retain control of the seeds requiring farmers to buy from them and sell back to them, breaking a traditional way of farming.

In many ways the old farming traditions are the best for small farmers. Diversity of crops and free ranging poultry to help control pests can produce the healthiest and best of foods.

GM Watch          

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