Rice, first crop plant to be sequenced, may help fight world hunger, Science authors say

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Every day, 24,000 people die from hunger and related causes, and 800 million people go to bed hungry. As the human population expands and farmland shrinks, food shortages--brought on by drought, political unrest, poverty or other complex reasons--are expected to become increasingly acute.

The genetic code behind rice, a staple for more than half the worlds population, "will speed improvements in nutritional quality, crop yield and sustainable agriculture to meet the worlds growing needs," said Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief of the journal, Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Surprisingly, rice may be far more complex than scientists ever guessed, densely populated with many small genes--perhaps even more genes than the human genome. The rice genome may also provide a low-cost roadmap for investigating similar cereal crops such as maize, wheat and barley.

Rice, known scientifically as Oryza sativa ("or-EYE-za sah-TEE-va"), is the principle source of calories for over a third of the worlds population.

The rice strain, indica, sequenced by Jun Yu of the Beijing Genomics Institute and the University of Washington Genome Center, with colleagues at 11 Chinese institutions, is a major subspecies in China and other Asian-Pacific regions. Crossing the indica strain with another variety produ

Contact: Lisa Onaga
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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