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twoday.net AGB

The rice genomes and world hunger

The publication of a map of the rice genome on August 11th in Nature was echoed in the main stream media. Several of those channels highlighted the global importance of research based on the genome sequence to human nutrition. According to the paper one has to increase the production of rice by 30% in the course of the next 20 years on the same area of arable land. Also, global warming and pollution (amongst others) require other, enhanced rice strains.

Obviously, these facts seem to be more important to the media than all the genes and transposons in the genome. I looked up the references to the facts presented and the statements go back to a paper from 1999, published in Crop Science (impact factor 0.958, #17 in 50 journals in Agronomy [ISI]), and a PNAS publication (contributed), highlighting the impact of global warming. Obviously, the authors had to restrict themselves to a few key publications given the constraints posed by the editors.

After reading the publications and some of that cite them, I find it hard to evaluate the assumptions the researchers make because I am not an expert in crop sciences in asia. However, these publications were only put into the light of the general public in the context of the rice genome and the numbers of citations (60 for the work from 1999) seem low given the potential impact of the work.

Well, read the references yourself. And read the rice genome paper if you are interested what plant genomes look like. It's good solid work and certainly does not require advertising by famine.

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