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2-Plants: Scientists map rice genome and predict higher yields

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Scientists map rice genome, predict higher yields
SOURCE: Reuters, by Gideon Long
DATE:   10 Aug 2005

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Scientists map rice genome, predict higher yields

LONDON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Scientists claimed a major breakthrough on
Wednesday in the drive to produce rice more cheaply and efficiently,
saying they had completed the first map of the cereal's genome, or
genetic code.

That should allow agriculturalists to increase rice yields, potentially
benefiting billions of people who rely on the crop as their main food source.

"This is a breakthrough of inestimable significance, not only for science
and agriculture but also for all those people who depend on rice as their
primary dietary staple," said Joachim Messing, one of the scientists
involved in the project.

Researchers from 10 countries worked together to identify all 37,544
genes in rice and establish the position of each gene on rice's 12

They said they had identified some particularly important genes which
might increase yield and productivity.

Private companies Monsanto and Syngenta, among others, had previously
produced partial sequences which led to genetic modification of rice but
had not been able to draw up a full model.

The two companies gave their draft sequences to scientists from the
International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP), a public consortium
which finished the job.

"The genetic map will greatly speed the hunt for genes that increase
yield, protect against disease and pests or provide drought-resistance in
rice and other cereal crops," said Robin Buell, the IRGSP's lead investigator.

The IRGSP says the implications are enormous simply because rice is so
essential to so many people.

According to the United Nations, rice supplies 20 percent of the world's
dietary energy supply. In Asia, more than 2 billion people obtain 60-70
percent of their calories from rice or rice-derived products.

With populations growing in the developing world, rice is set to become
even more important.

Consumption trends suggest that 4.6 billion people will be reliant on it
by 2025 compared to around 3 billion now. That means rice production will
have to grow by around 30 percent to keep up with demand.

Experts say the mapping of the rice genome also has implications for the
production of other cereals.

Messing, the director of a microbiology institute at one of the 32
institutions involved in the IRGSP, described the rice genome as "the
Rosetta Stone of all the bigger grass genomes".


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