Rockefeller FoundationSunday, 5th May, 2002
Japan-Led Effort Key To Completing Accurate Rice Genome SequenceA public sector initiative led by Japan is key to completing a precise sequence of the entire rice genome. Separate efforts to decode the rice genome, published in a recent issue of Science are important initial steps providing useful, though incomplete rough drafts of the genome. The public sector International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP), which uses a more systematic and precise route to genome decryption than the efforts led by Syngenta, a Swiss-based biotechnology company, and the Beijing Genomics Institute, will release a high-quality draft sequence of the rice genome by the end of 2002. Following its publication of the high-quality draft sequence, the IRGSP will continue work toward the final stage of the sequencing research: a precise, finished sequence of the rice genome.
The ten-nation IRGSP is led by Japan's Rice Genome Research Program and was aided two years ago by the Monsanto Company's contribution of its draft rice genome sequence. The IRGSP subscribes to a policy of immediate, public release of its data and has adopted an accuracy standard for its finished sequence of less than one error in 10,000 base pairs.
Only a precise, finished map of the rice genome will allow researchers to more effectively identify and isolate the genes that control specific traits, such as those related to vitamin production and drought and saline resistance. This identification and elucidation of the function of individual genes, known as functional genomics, is dependent on a finished sequence. Also, since rice is related to other cereals, a precise, finished rice sequence can be used to accelerate global efforts to improve major food crops including maize, wheat, barley, sorghum and millet.
"Japan's leadership and commitment to accurately sequencing the rice genome will enable research leading to better food security throughout the developing world," said Dr. Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. "I am joined by many others who are working to improve the food security of the world's 800 million malnourished people in applauding the IRGSP for its important work and urging that it be carried to completion." Dr. Conway, an agricultural ecologist and author of The Doubly Green Revolution. Food for All in the 21st Century, said that a complete, accurate rice genome will lead to the development of new varieties of rice that are more nutritious, drought resistant and less vulnerable to disease than current strains. Dr. Conway said that rice is the staple food for about half the world's population.
The Rockefeller Foundation is a U.S.-based global philanthropic organization endowed by John D. Rockefeller and chartered in 1913 for the well-being of humankind throughout the world. The Rockefeller Foundation has been engaged directly in agricultural work since 1934, when it embarked upon a rural reconstruction program in China. In 1943, the Foundation began funding a program designed to increase food production in Mexico. This program expanded and would later become know as the Green Revolution. In 1970, a Rockefeller Foundation staff member, Norman Borlaug, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his pivotal role in modernizing agriculture in the developing world.
The Rockefeller Foundation has been a leading supporter of rice research and was a co-founder in 1960 of the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Phillipines. Today the Rockefeller Foundation focuses its agricultural work on improving the food security of poor people living in rural areas through the generation of agricultural policies, institutions and innovations in areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America bypassed by the Green Revolution.
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