Hybrid rice research new hope for food security

Updated: 2011-09-21 07:13


  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

BEIJING/CHANGSHA - China broke a world record for rice output after developing a new breed of "hybrid rice."

Hybrid rice developed by Yuan Longping, known as the "father of hybrid rice," produced a harvest of 5,625.98 kg per acre during a trial harvesting operation conducted in Longhui County in central China's Hunan Province, the local agricultural academy announced on Monday.

Zhang Zhongjun, the assistant to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)'s representative in China, said that if the hybrid rice technology can be spread to less-developed countries, the breakthrough will be of great significance for world food security.

Food security a pressing issue

In 1974, the FAO officially defined food security as "the availability at all times of adequate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and offset fluctuations in production and prices."

Decades later, food security is still a major problem in many countries. Zhang said that over one billion people are still suffering from hunger and malnutrition, with  people living in some African and Asian countries unable to afford even cheap grain.

According to a recent report released by the United Nations, the world's population will reach seven billion next month. The number is expected to reach nine billion by 2050, creating even greater problems for global food security.

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank Group, said food security is a pressing issue for China and other developing countries.

"All countries must work together to address food security," Zoellick said at a media conference in Beijing early September. "We're going to need all countries to do so if we're going to feed an expected nine billion people by the year 2050."

Magic rice provides new hope

Yuan started working on hybrid rice in the 1960s as part of the country's efforts to combat its starvation problem. Chinese farmers saw incredible rice output after switching to using Yuan's hybrid rice.

In 1999, under the support of the Hunan Provincial Academy of Agriculture and the Hunan Hybrid Rice Research Center, Yuan established an agricultural company called Longping High-Tech, which helped to encourage the use of hybrid rice in China and foreign countries.

The Shanghai-listed company exports 2,000 metric tons of hybrid rice annually, according to company data. It has also trained more than 2,000 technical personnel from over 30 developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America.

Yuan's hybrid rice has been planted in India, Vietnam and the United States, covering a total of three million hectares of land. Yuan said that an additional 75 million hectares would be enough to feed 400 million to 500 million people.

"We are ready to help other countries solve their food security problems," he said.

However, Zhang warned that breakthroughs in the field have only taken place at the trial level, and that it will take some time before the breakthroughs can be applied around the world.

"The impact will only be seen after the breed is widely planted," Yuan said.