Strong partnerships critical in the future of global rice sector

20161122 IR8 post

NEW DELHI, INDIA – 21 November 2016 --- Today, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) celebrated the golden anniversary of the international release of IR8 - the world’s first high-yielding rice variety. The event was attended by Shri Sudarshan Bhagat, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Professor Swaminathan and leaders of the agriculture sector in India.

“Our hope is that this anniversary will commemorate a great moment in India’s history and enable ICAR, in partnership with IRRI, to spark a conversation on how to achieve the (Indian Prime Minister Modi’s) seven-point strategy to double farmers’ incomes and on the role of a strong rice sector in building India’s illustrious future,” said Shri Sudarshan Bhagat, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

The milestone event, titled Rice that Changed the World, was held in New Delhi and included a series of commemorative awards and speeches as well as panel discussion on the future of the Indian rice sector moderated by award-winning journalist Gargi Parsai.

“Technologies must be made accessible and available to farmers and must be able to specifically address the various types of rice value chain,” said Mr. ​Abhay Gandhe of the Tata Trust Foundation during the panel discussion. Ms. Smita Bhatnagar of the Self Employed Women’s Association further commented that rice research must be participatory and involve farmers, especially women, in the process.

In his reflections after receiving a commemorative award, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, former IRRI Director General reflected on how IR8 was developed with the collaboration of scientists and farmers, and how Indian farmers contributed to the success of rice technologies---a role more important until today.

The development of IR8 began a collaborative relationship between IRRI and India as well as with the governments of other rice-growing Asian nations. IR8 was soon followed by subsequent high-yielding varieties with increased vigor, better resistance to pests and diseases, better grain quality, and improved crop adaptability.

The story of IR8 and subsequent varieties of the Green Revolution demonstrated how the concerted efforts in scientific innovation improved lives. “IR8 has been used extensively in the development of subsequent rice varieties. We should take what we have learned from our partnership with IRRI and use it for our country to build the rice sector strategy so we can achieve more than what we had previously,“ said Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra, ICAR Director General.

“As much as the journey for IR8 was a one-of-a-kind technology, the future growth of the global rice sector will not just be a journey of technology, but also a journey of humanity and of critical partnerships,” said Matthew Morell, Director General of IRRI. “The scarcity of time and resources means that our science must be multidisciplinary. Our partnerships must bring rice-growing countries, as well as different sectors of the rice value chain, together in order to advance rice research and effect progressive policy change. This is the only means by which we will leverage science for maximum benefit of those we serve.”