For the second time in three decades, science is on the verge of providing a way to feed rapidly rising populations in the world’s poorer countries.
In the 1960s, scientists at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines developed “miracle rice,” giving rise to the Green Revolution credited with averting what, at the time, appeared to be certain famine in Asia.
Now, the Institute is preparing to drive yet another nail in the coffin of widespread global famine.
In a discovery that bodes well for Asia and perhaps other parts of the world, rice–the grain that has been the staple of Asian diets for thousands of years–is about to be injected with the latest advances in agricultural science. Dubbed “super rice,” the new product is, according to the New York Times, a “thoroughly redesigned, more efficient grain-producing engine.” The new rice is sturdier than its predecessors and has a shorter growing season, enabling growers to have two or even three harvests in one year. The International Rice Research Institute estimates that super rice will increase crop yields by 20 to 25 percent.
The timing of the Institute’s breakthrough couldn’t be better, observers point out. The world’s population continues to grow, albeit at a slower rate than was predicted only a few years ago. Rural populations are migrating in increased numbers to cities looking for work, leading to sharp decreases in the size of the farm labor force in developing countries.
This is where “super rice” comes in; it can be harvested by fewer people and produces a larger yield. Super rice should be available to farmers, and consumers, by the end of the decade.