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Some good news for the world's poor

d varieties, farmers can produce more output at the same cost (or, conversely, the same level of output at a lower cost), which directly improves farmers' income.

Second, the diffusion of modern varieties results in lower food prices, as demonstrated in several studies. This is critical given that the poorest people spend a large share of their income on food.

Third, the productivity consequences of improved varieties resulted in greater demand for labor and wages. For example, earlier research found that the poor benefited from new technology as a result of greater employment opportunities as well as the upward pressure on wage rates in the labor market.

Explaining the large difference in impact between the 15,000 lifted out of poverty in India and the 800 in China, Dr. Fan said this was because China had already achieved rapid and very large reductions in poverty before 1999. "But the overall total reduction in rural poor through rice research in China has been much larger than in India," if looked at over the past 20 years instead of just 1999.

"Ending poverty among the world's poor is an enormously complex and challenging task," Dr. Zeigler emphasized. "But it's very important that we recognize what strategies really do have an impact so we can focus our resources on such techniques, and rice research is clearly one of these."

Dr. Fan's research follows earlier work by IRRI that showed that, in the four decades from 1961 to 2000, while the population of Asia's developing nations more than doubled, from 1.6 billion to 3.4 billion, efforts to avert famine resulted in the land area devoted to rice expanding by 30 percent, from 107 million hectares to 139 million hectares.

Rice production grew by an impressive 170 percent, from 199 million tonnes in 1961 to 540 million tonnes in 2000, thanks largely to the introduction of improved rice varieties. This unprecedented yield improvement not only helped millions avoid starv
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Source:International Rice Research Institute


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