Rice became a big issue around the globe recently and I had blogged about this here and here. However, I wanted to focus on rice hybrids and whats going on in the biotech world. While biotech rice strains have been developed, the genetically engineered vitamin A fortified Golden Rice have met with resistence, Malaysian scientists have also researched disease resistent transgenic rice strains here but not sure whether this is in commercial production. Recent news shows that there is search for a Super-Rice as reported here as the University of Washington pursues the “super hybrids.”
to hasten the pace of modern rice genetics, which since the 1960s has delivered a series of new strains, starting with higher-yielding semidwarf varieties, a breakthrough that was hailed as the Green Revolution.
Hybrids are produced by crossing two inbred- genetically fixed - varieties of a particular crop. Hybrids are special because they express what is called "heterosis" or hybrid vigor. The idea is that if you cross two parents which are genetically distant from each other, the offspring will be "superior", particularly in terms of yield. However, the so-called heterosis effect disappears after the first (F1) generation, so it is pointless for farmers to save seeds produced from a hybrid crop. This makes it very profitable to go into the seed business, since farmers need to purchase new F1 seeds every season to get the heterosis effect (high yield) each time. Rice is a mainly self-pollinated crop.(i) Each rice plant produces its own pollen which gets into an ovary and through fertilisation produces seed - what we eat as the rice grain. Rice has been a poor candidate for commercial hybridisation because you would have to find a way to sterilize some of the plants and then force them to cross with fertile plants.
Whatever said and done, genetically modified, hybrid or even wild rice still needs to be planted in paddy fields. Depending on the type of rice, paddy planting requires large tracts of land, good irrigation systems, abundant rainfall and back breaking labour unless highly mechanised farming techniques are involved. Rice is a member of the grass family. With food supplies dwindling, the spectre of hunger and starvation a possible reality in many parts of the world, in Asia people will literally have to resort to eating grass!!