Plant breeding technique can help beat hunger trap

December 2nd, 2008 - 2:12 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 2 (IANS) Increased investment in plant breeding technique can help boost efforts to pull millions of people out of the hunger trap, said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) scientists.IAEA scientists use radiation to produce improved high-yielding plants that adapt to harsh climate conditions such as drought or flood, or that are resistant to certain diseases and insect pests.

Called mutation induction, the technique is safe, proven and cost-effective. It has been in use since the 1920s.

“The global nature of the food crisis is unprecedented. Families all around the world are struggling to feed themselves,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the IAEA.

Already more than 3,000 crop varieties of some 170 different plant species have been released through the direct intervention of the IAEA. They include barley that grows at 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) and rice that thrives in saline soil.

These varieties provide much needed food as well as millions of dollars in economic benefits for farmers and consumers, especially in developing countries, said an IAEA release.

In Japan alone, the Institute of Radiation Breeding (IRB) calculates that crops developed using mutation induction generated economic returns of nearly $62 billion against $69 million invested during the period 1959-2001. That translates into a remarkable 900 fold return on investment, and this in the public sector.

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