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Some good news for the world's poor

ation but also saved thousands of hectares of fragile natural habitats from falling under the plow to create new rice fields.

That IRRI research team, led by senior economist Dr. Mahabub Hossain, also found that the total annual gains from the adoption of these modern varieties now stands at $10.8 billion ?an astounding figure considering that it is many times the total investment in rice research made over the same 40-year period by IRRI and its many partners in the national agricultural research and extension systems of Asia's rice-producing nations.

Providing further evidence is an independent study of the impact of improved rice varieties and other crops over the past 40 years that showed they have significantly reduced prices for poor consumers, saved thousands of hectares of forests from being turned into farmland, and reduced the number of malnourished children.

The research, led by respected American economist Dr. Robert Evenson from Yale University, was the first major attempt to assess the economic impact of improved crop varieties, not just rice but also other important food staples such as wheat, maize, barley, cassava, and potato. Dr. Hans Gregersen, the head of a panel that reviewed the research, described the study by Dr. Evenson and his huge team of researchers as a "milestone" and a "monumental effort."

Dr. Evenson and his team found that the development of improved rice varieties between 1970 and 1995 had substantial impact in four major areas. Their findings indicate that, were it not for the development of improved varieties,

  • Rice prices for consumers could have been up to 41 percent higher.
  • Rice-producing nations would be importing up to 8 percent more food.
  • Millions of hectares of forests and other fragile ecosystems would have been lost.
  • Between 1.5 and 2 percent more children would have been malnourished in developing countries. This seemingly small figure in percentage terms transla
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Source:International Rice Research Institute


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