China's 'father of hybrid rice' says genetically modified foods are the future

Yuan Longping has revealed that he is currently working on genetically modified rice

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 6:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 6:26pm

Yuan Longping, the “father of hybrid rice,” has spoken publically about his ongoing research into genetically modified food production, calling the process “the future” of food. 

In a televised Xinhua interview later reported by People’s Daily, Longping acknowledged public worries about the safety of genetically modified foods, as well as the concern that pesticide resistant crops could transfer genes to insects and other pests.

[Genetically modified rice] is the project of the century.
Yuan Longping 

Despite these potential risks, Longping said that genetically modified foods were already widely eaten in China,“should not be generalised,” and had tremendous untapped potential.

“Three quarters of all the soybeans that [China] consumes are genetically modified ones from the United States,” he added.

The renowned agricultural scientist also revealed that he was working with experts in Hunan’s Hybrid Rice Research Center to develop methods of combining genes from corn with rice – a process that could potentially create genetically modified grains with an increased photosynthetic efficiency of 50 per cent.

“This is the project of the century,” Longping said.

Well-known for developing the world’s first hybrid rice varieties in the 1970s, Longping is a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. His techniques for rice development were introduced to the United States in 1979 and quickly spread internationally.

Hybrid rice has proven itself as a valuable food resource in countries suffering from famine, and is currently grown all over the Americas and Asia. In China, hybrid rice has been planted on around 50 per cent of all rice growing land.

For his agricultural research, Longping was awarded the State Preeminent Science and Technology Award of China in 2000.