Crop research reductions endanger food supply

Brown plant hopper endangers world rice supply

World famine prevention: ID#6901
World famine prevention: ID#6901Courtesy CDC/ Dr. Lyle Conrad
Rice is a crop that feeds nearly half the world’s people. The International Rice Research Institute is the world’s main repository of rice seeds as well as genetic and other information about rice. In the 1980s, the institute employed five entomologists, or insect experts, overseeing a staff of 200. Now it has one entomologist with a staff of eight.

"A potential solution is at hand for the plant hopper problem. No fewer than 14 new types of genetic resistance have been discovered. But with the budget cuts, the institute has mounted no effort to breed these traits into widely used rice varieties.

Doing so now would take four to seven years, if money could be found. In the meantime, the hoppers have become a growing threat. China, the world’s biggest rice producer, announced on May 7 that it was struggling to control the rapid spread of the insects there. A plant hopper outbreak can destroy 20 percent of a harvest; China is trying to hold losses to 5 percent in affected fields."

Green Revolution stops starvation in 1960s

In the 1960s, population growth was far outrunning food production. With many poor countries threatened by famine, money was devoted to agricultural research. With new varieties of corn, wheat, and rice, along with better growing techniques, yields of food per acre soared in the 1970s and by the 1980s, the threat of starvation had receded in most of the world.

Famine again threatens world's poor

Since 1980, world support for agriculture in poor countries has dropped tremendously. Such projects include not only research on pests and crops but also programs to help farmers adopt improved methods in their fields.

  • Adjusted for inflation, the World Bank cut its agricultural lending to $2 billion in 2004 from $7.7 billion in 1980.
  • The United States cut its support for agriculture in poor countries to $624 million from $2.3 billion (1980-2006).

Another Green Revolution needed

Around 2004, as the world economy began growing more quickly. Millions of people were gaining the money to improve their diets, but the food supply was lagging.

"The world began to use more grain than it was producing, cutting into reserves, and prices started rising. Early this year, as stocks fell to perilous levels, international grain prices doubled or even tripled, threatening as many as 100 million people with malnutrition."

Crop endangering bugs and diseases are quickly becoming immune to insecticides and fungicides. Brown plant hoppers can withstand up to 100 times the dose that used to kill it. Wheat varieties resistant to wheat rust are victim to new varieties of the fungus (read my post on "wheat futures" here)

“We must stay ahead of rapidly evolving pests — and increasingly, a changing climate — to assure global food security,” said Mr. Zeigler, the rice institute’s director. “Cutting back on agricultural research today is pure folly.”

Source article: New York Times

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Gene's picture
Gene says:

John Tierney, author of the NY Times science blog, places the blame for this on the environmental movement. Green activists oppose exporting high-yield agricultural practices to Africa, where starving populations could use the help. The activists also lobby for their own pet projects, diverting funds from food research and relief.

posted on Tue, 05/20/2008 - 7:21am
tiffany_88's picture
tiffany_88 says:

The problems on the environment increase the less of food. Africa is the country more poor in the world.
A lot people die and the consequences increase more in chlidrens.

posted on Thu, 05/22/2008 - 9:04am
nelson.robin's picture
nelson.robin says:


posted on Thu, 05/22/2008 - 9:19am
Candice_318's picture
Candice_318 says:

Man America can help everyone else but theses ppl who have absolutely have no food. Poor babies

posted on Thu, 05/22/2008 - 9:23am
Shanee's picture
Shanee says:

That breaks my see such innocent people have to suffer so bad.

posted on Thu, 05/22/2008 - 9:23am

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