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Climate change: The rice genome to the rescue

New evidence is emerging that climate change could reduce not only the world's ability to produce food but also international efforts to cut poverty. However, the recent sequencing of the rice genome is already providing researchers with some of the tools they need to help poor rice farmers and consumers avoid the worst effects of the problem.

The new knowledge generated by the sequencing effort is allowing scientists to both develop new rice varieties faster and with the specific characteristics needed to deal with climate change, such as tolerance of higher temperatures. However, scientists are calling for more research to fully understand the impact of climate change ?especially the extreme weather it may cause ?on international efforts to reduce poverty and ensure food security.

A "Climate Change and Rice" planning workshop this month at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines was told that climate change is already affecting Asia's ability to produce rice, and that this could eventually slow efforts to reduce poverty in the region, where most of the world's poor live.

The workshop was informed that, to overcome many of the climate change–related problems facing rice production in Asia ?and continue to meet the demand for rice in the region ?yields will have to double over the next 50 years. Research has confirmed that global warming will make rice crops less productive with increasing temperatures decreasing yields.

"Clearly, climate change is going to have a major impact on our ability to grow rice," Robert S. Zeigler, IRRI director general, said. "We can't afford to sit back and be complacent about this because rice production feeds almost half the world's population while providing vital employment to millions as well, with most of them being very poor and vulnerable."

For these reasons, Dr. Zeigler announced at the workshop that IRRI ?in an unprecedented move ?was ready to put up US$2 mill
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Source:International Rice Research Institute


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