Now, global scheme to boost rice yields while reducing environment damage

Thursday, November 11, 2010

WASHINGTON - Scientists have launched a bold new research initiative that aims to dramatically improve the ability of rice farmers to feed growing populations in some of the world’s poorest nations, and prevent the emission of greenhouse gases.

The efforts of the Global Rice Science Partnership, or GRiSP, are expected to lift 150 million people out of poverty by 2035 and prevent the emission of greenhouse gases by an amount equivalent to more than 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

An initiative of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partners, GRiSP was launched in Hanoi today at the 3rd International Rice Congress.

Cutting-edge research aimed at discovering new rice genes and deciphering their functions will feed into accelerated efforts to break the yield barrier in rice and to breed new generations of “climate-ready” rice with flooding tolerance and other traits that are essential for adapting production in the face of climate change.

The project is expected to boost supplies enough to reduce anticipated increases in rice prices by an average of at least 6.5 percent by 2020, and at least 13 percent by 2035.

“Given that rice is a staple food for more than half the global population and in most of the developing world, there is no question that availability of rice is equated with food security,” said Dr. Robert Zeigler, Director General of IRRI, a member of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers.

According to Zeigler, the initiative will contribute significantly to lowering food prices, which he says should lift about 72 million people out of poverty by 2020.

At the same time, more than 1.2 million hectares of forest, wetlands, and other natural ecosystems will be saved by 2035 because rice production will not need to expand into new areas, thanks to higher rice yields.

While GRiSP builds on existing research, development, and funding, it requires additional new financial support to raise annual funding for rice research from around 100 million in 2011 to 139 million in 2015 to fully realize its potential.

“In the coming months, the CGIAR will launch further high-quality international research programmes that form part of a comprehensive vision, with clear impact-oriented targets, for reduction in poverty and hunger, improvements in health and nutrition, and enhanced resilience of the world’s ecosystems. We welcome the CGIAR donor support for these new programs,” said Carlos Pirez del Castillo, Chair of the Board of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers. (ANI)

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