The rice genome must be made available to all

Share

The importance of rice for the future of humanity is not to be underestimated. It is the most important crop in the developing world and, as we report today, half the world's people rely on rice to provide about 80 per cent of their dietary needs. With most of the growth in the global population in the developing world, rice will become even more important as the staple crop to feed an increasingly hungry world.

The importance of rice for the future of humanity is not to be underestimated. It is the most important crop in the developing world and, as we report today, half the world's people rely on rice to provide about 80 per cent of their dietary needs. With most of the growth in the global population in the developing world, rice will become even more important as the staple crop to feed an increasingly hungry world.

Deciphering the rice genome – the genetic recipe of the plant and its nutritious seed – therefore represents a major scientific achievement. Donald Kennedy, the editor of the journal Science, goes as far as to say that the rice genome will prove to be even more important than the human genome, itself lauded as the greatest technological advance since the invention of the wheel.

Preliminary estimates of the size of the rice genome range between 45,000 and 56,000 genes. Somewhere in this genetic information are the signposts that will lead us to higher-yielding varieties, better tolerance to drought or salinity, increased resistance to pests or improved nutritional content. The rice genome will prove to be invaluable for agriculturalists who want to reverse the alarming slowdown in rice production witnessed over the past decade.

But rice is more than just this. The genetics of this plant are viewed as a model for other important cereal crops, such as maize, barley, oats and wheat. Understanding the genetic instructions that enable rice to grow will provide much-needed insight into the healthy development of the other staple crops on which we all depend.

In a perfect world, this information would be shared freely for the common good. However, concerns have been aroused by plans to put the genome of one rice variety on to a database controlled by a multinational agrochemicals company. Many scientists believe this breaks the spirit of openness that is a hallmark of scientific publication.

The company, Syngenta, has promised free access to the data to any academic scientist not working for a commercial competitor. It is at least an attempt to meet these concerns and is certainly better than making the rice genome a trade secret.

Rice and the food we eat are too important to be left solely in the hands of private organisations wielding control over who has access to the information. The unravelling of the rice genome is to be applauded, and its open publication even more so.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower