December 8, 2004
Rice is essential to winning the
battle against world hunger, and global leaders must consider
the use of innovative technologies to meet the needs of the
world's growing population. This is according to representatives
from the Food and Agriculture
Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the European
Parliament as well as the winner of the 2004 World Food Prize
(the equivalent of Nobel Prize for Agriculture).
Speaking at an event organised by
CropLife International* to
commemorate the UN's International Year of Rice**, several
leaders in development and agriculture research called upon the
international community to take urgent action to increase
production, ensure environmental sustainability and enhance
nutrition of rice - the world's most important crop and "one of
the most protected food commodities in world trade," according
to Nirj Deva, MEP.
Over half of the 840 million people suffering from chronic
hunger live in areas dependent on rice production for food,
income and employment. Growth in rice yields is slowing, and is
already falling behind population growth.
"Plant science technologies are necessary to increase rice
yields and create new rice varieties," according to Christian
Verschueren, Director General of CropLife International. "Crop
protection products help rice farmers control pests, diseases
and weeds. In addition, CropLife International's leading
companies are assisting with mapping the rice genome and are
researching rice varieties that are resistant to insect pests
and diseases. They have also supported the development of
"Golden Rice" to help combat childhood blindness in developing
"Innovative technologies will become increasingly critical to
ensure the sustainable development of rice-based production
systems," said Mahmoud Solh, Director, Plant Protection and
Production Division at the FAO.
Dr. Monty Jones, 2004 World Food Prize Laureate and Executive
Secretary of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa
(FARA) explained how NERICA*** (New Rice for Africa) rice
varieties have been developed using plant breeding technologies,
and have the potential to benefit over 20 million rice farmers
and 240 million consumers in West Africa alone. High-yielding
rice ideally suited for poor African farmers, NERICA also
promises to help reduce the region's high rice import bills. A
25% adoption of NERICA would lead to savings of $100 million a
"Every nation is confronted by critical issues related to the
application of science and technology...The success of NERICA is
just one illustration of the value of this approach in combating
hunger and poverty in Africa," stated Dr. Jones. "The
development challenges facing Africa are well known but they
must be kept in mind to sustain motivation in the face of other
distractions faced by decision-makers. The life-threatening
conditions of rural Africans must compete with the seemingly
more compelling demands for protecting the way of life of
Northern agricultural producers and processes."
In order for effective research to come to fruition, it needs to
be complimented by proper, risk-based regulatory frameworks,
effective technology transfer mechanisms and and market-based
distribution systems in rural areas.
"Research can only produce real results if there is an enabling,
predictable, robust and consistent regulatory framework that
listens to good science. We also need proper infrastructures to
ensure that these technologies can be transferred and
distributed, particularly for the benefit smallholder farmers,"
stated Christian Verschueren.
CropLife International is the global federation representing the
plant science industry. It supports a network of regional and
national associations in 88 countries, and is led by companies
such as BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, FMC,
Monsanto, Sumitomo and Syngenta. CropLife International promotes
the benefits of crop protection and biotechnology products,
their importance to sustainable agriculture and food production,
and their responsible use through stewardship activities.
2004 is being celebrated as the "International Year of Rice."
The recognition of a commodity with an International Year is an
unprecedented step in the history of the United Nations. A
number of governments and institutions have come together to
focus attention on rice at events being held around the world.
For more information on the International Year of Rice, visit
the FAO dedicated webpage at <http://www.fao.org/rice2004/index_en.htm>.
NERICA rice varieties were
developed by crossing African and Asian rice species. They
combine the best attributes of both species. Some benefits
* Higher yields: NERICA rice varieties can produce over 50 per
cent more grain than current varieties when cultivated with
traditional rain-fed systems without fertilizer.
* Faster maturity: NERICA varieties mature 30 to 50 days earlier
than current varieties.
* Enhanced nutrition: The new rice is substantially richer in
* Disease and drought tolerance.
* Insect resistance: the new varieties can resist some of the
most damaging insect pests in west Africa.
* Increased vigour: NERICA varieties can out-compete weeds for
space, sunlight, water and nutrients.
More information can be found at: <http://www.warda.org/warda1/main/Achievements/nerica.htm>.