Research into the staple Asian diet of rice will be increased to secure an adequate supply and provide better nutrition throughout the world, international scientists pledged yesterday in Beijing.
President Jiang Zemin joined the 1,200 Chinese and foreign agricultural scientists and officials at the opening of the International Rice Congress yesterday, noting it is very important that countries and world institutions meet to discuss issues concerning the development of the rice industry.
Jiang said the world's agricultural industry is facing new challenges and acknowledged that food safety remains a worldwide problem.
A considerable number of countries and regions have yet to resolve their food problems and 790 million people still lack adequate nutrition.
Jiang said international cooperative research on plant genome sequencing for rice has progressed substantially.
A team of Chinese scientists recently became the first group to publish rice genome sequencing maps based on their own research. The results are for the common good of humanity and should be used to benefit the world's population.
Equal opportunity and equal access to the application of these results should be guaranteed, especially for developing countries. They should seize opportunities and actively participate in them to promote the growth of their local economies and societies, Jiang said.
The Chinese president urged developed countries to acquire a deep understanding of the increasingly severe North-South disparity and its impact on global stability and sustainable development.
Angeline Kamba, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of the International Rice Research Institute, called for more investment in rice research by developing countries.
Kamba said international assistance in the agriculture sectors of developing countries had decreased in past decades.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization calculated that the world assistance in agriculture in developing countries stood at less than US$10 billion in 1994. In 1986 the figure was US$19 billion.
Kamba said she hopes more assistance will help modern scientific advances and ease hunger, malnutrition and poverty throughout the world.
Xu Kuangdi, president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said China will continuously focus its energy on rice science and technology innovation.
"We should combine regular technology with biotechnology and radiation mutation technology to enhance innovation in breeding materials and to breed new super rice varieties as well as new varieties for food, feed and industry," Xu said in his keynote speech to the conference.
In a separate development, genetically modified (GM) rice research in China has been recognized internationally. In contrast with a normal rice, which is prone to pests, a GM paddy looks greener and more robust.
The fields are part of the Experimental Program on Genetically Modified Paddies. The research project is dedicated to large-scale GM cultivation, which is being conducted by the Fujian Provincial Academy of Agricultural Sciences in East China's Fujian Province.
According to Wang Feng, the program director, research results will soon be applied to improving production methods to yield greater economic returns.
(Xinhua News Agency September 17, 2002)