Of Rice and Men
Roughly half the people in the world eat rice every day. Soon, we’ll be able to put aside any worries about running out of samples of this dietary staple — samples researchers can use to help us deal with the consequences of climate change and a growing population.
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) maintains the world’s largest collection of samples of various types of rice at a gene bank in Los Banos, Philippines. On Friday, it secured $1.4 million per year in funding — enough to maintain the facility forever.
Mr. Rice Guy
Like the “doomsday” seed vault in Norway, the purpose of the IRRI gene bank is to ensure we never find ourselves in a position where our food supply isn’t secure and diverse. To that end, the IRRI gene bank houses samples of more than 135,000 varieties of rice that researchers can access for their studies.
On Friday, the Crop Trust, an organization dedicated to supporting global food security and crop diversity, agreed to permanently fund the gene bank. The organizations will sign an agreement guaranteeing this funding on the very appropriate date of October 16 — World Food Day — at the Fifth International Rice Congress in Singapore.
Of course, “permanent” is pretty impossible to guarantee, and the agreement will actually start with a five-year-long phase ending in 2023. After that, the organizations will need to renew it every five years.
Still, the Crop Trust seems dedicated to providing the IRRA gene bank with the funding it’ll need to keep researchers rolling in rice for the foreseeable future.
“Providing permanent funding to the world’s most important crop collections is at the core of the Crop Trust mission,” said Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust, in a news release. “Today’s announcement validates 20 years of work and 50 years of thinking on how the international community can safeguard crops used for food and agriculture.”
READ MORE: The World’s Rice Bowl: Protected in Perpetuity [Crop Trust]
More on food security: Norway’s “Doomsday” Seed Vault Is Getting a $13 Million Upgrade