A group of scientists from 12 universities in eight countries is working to develop a new strain of “hyperefficient, drought-resistant rice known as C4,” reported Oscar Lopez in Newsweek.

Around the world researchers are trying to improve the productivity of all crops being grown for human food and livestock feed, but improved rice could have the most impact on feeding a population of more than 9 billion in 2050. The International Rice Research Institute says each hectare of land (2.5 acres) in Asia produces food for about 27 people, but that hectare will have to feed 43 by 2050.

Lopez goes through a scientific explanation about the difference between C3 and C4 plants (rice grows with a C3 process and corn is a C4). Lopez also writes about scientists expecting the weather cycle to cause more drought and the weather to be less hospitable to conventional rice production.

Conversion of rice from being a C3 to a C4 will result in genetically modified (GM) rice. The scientists involved don’t see scientific development of C4 rice as being much different than the evolution of other plants over time.

A scientist is quoted as explaining that GMO rice cannot be dismissed as a solution to feeding the world because GMO rice will be safe to grow and consume and is definitely better than no food at all.     

Also noted in the article is conventional rice production’s negative influence on the earth’s atmosphere because growing rice accounts for 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas of methane.

To read the Newsweek article click here.