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World Food Prize Foundation remembers Yuan Longping

By Zhao Huanxin in Washington | | Updated: 2021-05-23 09:41
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Norman Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in global agriculture, presents the World Food Prize to Yuan Longping on Oct 4, 2004, at the Iowa State Capitol Building. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Yuan Longping, the "Father of Hybrid Rice" who passed away on Saturday at 91, will be long remembered as one of the "most laudable leaders" who helped feed the world, the World Food Prize Foundation, which honored the Chinese scientist 17 years ago, said.

Yuan was a co-winner of the 2004 World Food Prize, the top international honor recognizing the feats of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. Yuan shared it with Monty Jones, an African rice breeder.

Yuan received the honor for his "breakthrough achievement" in developing the genetic materials and technologies essential for breeding high-yielding hybrid rice varieties, and his "pioneering research" has helped transform China from food deficiency to food security within three decades, according to an earlier statement released by the WFP.

Barbara Stinson, president of the WFP Foundation, said Yuan was credited not only for hybrid rice, but also for the ability to then shift land base out of rice production and into other kinds of food production, including fish ponds, other fruits and vegetables, increasing the nutritional content of food in China, and thereby contributing to the reduction of hunger and poverty as well.

In particular, the generosity of the leading scientist in making his technology available to the world is profound in ending world hunger, Stinson said.

Yuan started hybrid rice research in 1964 and succeeded in cultivating the world's first high-yield hybrid rice strain in 1973.

In China the annual planting area of hybrid rice has now exceeded 16 million hectares, or 57 percent of the total planting area of rice, helping feed an extra 80 million people a year in a country where rice is a staple for the majority population, Xinhua reported.

Its annual growth area has reached 8 million hectares in countries including India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Brazil and the US, with each hectare on average producing about 2 tons more grain than the local strains do, the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center in Changsha said in a statement on Saturday.

"He's made such a powerful contribution, he is one of our most laudable leaders," Stinson told China Daily. "Professor Yuan will be long remembered."

For more than a decade, the World Food Prize Foundation has placed young US agriculture students on Borlaug-Ruan International Internships in the China national hybrid rice development center in Changsha, China, of which Yuan had been the general director.

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