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PIA Press Release
2009/11/17

50 years of rice science for a better world – and it's just the start

by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

Los Baños, Philippines (17 November) -- Today the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) embarks on its 50th anniversary celebrations to acknowledge how rice science has helped address food security, and to emphasize the ongoing need for rice science to tackle the challenges of poverty and climate change.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand formally launched IRRI's 50th anniversary at IRRI's headquarters in the Philippines, which will include 12 months of special activities to draw the world's attention to rice – the crop that feeds half the world – and opportunities to achieve global food security.

"The plight of over 1 billion people stricken with poverty, 70% of whom live in Asia and depend on rice as their staple food, is our driving force for our research," said IRRI's Director General Dr. Robert Zeigler.

"We must find solutions to help increase rice yields and improve the sustainability of rice production because as rice yields increase the incidence of poverty decreases," he added.

In fifty years, IRRI's high-yielding rice varieties and other technologies, plus extensive training, have contributed to the doubling of average world rice yields. This has averted famine and prevented millions of hectares of natural ecosystems from being converted to farmland.

Since 1960, IRRI has also:

  • Developed more than 457 rice breeding lines between 1966 and 2009 that have been released as 864 varieties in 78 countries.

  • Conserved and shared the genetic diversity of rice in the International Rice Genebank, which contains over 109,000 different types.

  • Managed pests and diseases through ecology, genetics, and education.

  • Shared our rice knowledge with our international rice research and extension partners.

  • Trained rice scientists at our training center and through our in-country training programs.

  • Promoted sustainable soil and nutrient management, and worked to counteract water scarcity.

"We are honored to have Princess Sirindhorn launch our 50th anniversary celebrations," said Dr. Zeigler. "IRRI's achievements would never have been possible without our many partners and donors from all over the world and we look forward to celebrating with them."

"We also want to thank our host nation, the Philippines, and recognize the hard work and commitment of the thousands of scientists and collaborators who have worked with IRRI over the last 50 years," he added.

Several major events are planned for the anniversary, including

  • The 50th annual meeting of IRRI's Board of Trustees, 12-17 April 2010, followed by an alumni homecoming for all former IRRI staff and scholars, both in Los Baños, Philippines.

  • The 3rd International Rice Congress (IRC2010), 9-12 November 2010, Hanoi, Vietnam. The IRC2010, the world's largest gathering of the rice industry, has the theme Rice for Future Generations, and will include the 28th International Rice Research Conference, 3rd World Rice Commerce Conference, 3rd International Rice Technology and Cultural Expo, and other 50th anniversary activities of IRRI.

    Other events are expected to be held around Asia in 2010 as each rice-producing nation celebrates its research and production achievements. (IRRI) [top]

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