Kenyan rice wins praise in Vienna

December 5, 2008
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 4 – A new wheat variety that is being grown in Kenya has been cited by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as an example of how countries can ensure food security.

IAEA Director – General Mohammed El-Baradei has said the ‘Njoro-BW1’ variety, which was planted in hot and barren dry lands, makes a case for investing in plant breeding techniques that could bolster efforts aimed at pulling millions of people out of the hunger trap.

“Today the landscape is more picturesque and productive, lined with fields of golden wheat yielding precious grain for the country\’s farms and families,” he said of the variety that is now grown on more than 10,000 hectares of Kenyan farmland.

‘Njoro-BW1’ is high yielding and resistant to drought.  It was developed by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) using induced mutation technology and the institute managed to successfully release its first mutant wheat variety in 2001. 

A new wheat variety, code-named DH4, has many of the same good characteristics as Njoro-BW1.  But DH4\’s grains are hard and red, a sign they are rich in protein and an excellent source of premium baking flour, qualities highly prized by farmers for their market value.
 
Speaking at a food security forum in Vienna, Austria, Mr El-Baradei pointed out that since the global nature of the food crisis is unprecedented there is need to adopt crop breeding technologies that produce improved high-yielding plants that adapt to harsh climatic conditions.

"To provide sustainable, long-term solutions, we must make use of all available resources.  Selecting the crops that are better able to feed us is one of humankind\’s oldest sciences.  But we\’ve neglected to give it the support and investment it requires for universal application,” he said.
 
IAEA scientists, he said, have over the last eight decades used a technique called mutation induction which uses radiation to produce improved plants that are resistant to certain diseases and insect pests.

Already more than 3000 crop varieties of some 170 different plant species such as barley that grows at 5000 meters and rice that thrives in saline soil have been released through the direct intervention of the IAEA.

Induced mutation is an important part of the solution to the world\’s food crisis.

 "We are not the only solution to the world\’s food crisis but we offer a tool, a very efficient tool, to the global agricultural community to broaden the adaptability of crops in the face of climate change, rising prices, and soils that lack fertility or have other major problems," El-Baradei added.

This year, shortages combined with increasing demand have created a new global food crisis.  At its root: adverse weather conditions linked to climate change, the diversion of land for the cultivation of bio-fuels, and a tendency to live on food credit.
 
Today, food shortages and sky-rocketing prices are pushing millions of people deeper into the poverty and hunger cycle.  As a result, social unrest and food protests, some violent, have flared in countries around the globe.
 
In addition to the more than 850 million people worldwide who were already going hungry, millions more now are being pushed below the one-dollar-a-day poverty level.

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