Technological breakthroughs in rice will boost harvests and cut poverty. They deserve support
When, in 1961, the government of India asked a celebrated wheat breeder, Norman Borlaug, for advice about new seeds, the subcontinent was thought to be on the verge of starvation. China actually was suffering from famine. Borlaug persuaded India to plant a new semi-dwarf variety of wheat in Punjab. The next year, the country also tried out a dwarf variety of rice called IR8. These short-stemmed crops solved a basic problem: old-fashioned crops were long and leggy, so when fed with fertiliser they grew too tall and fell over. Borlaug’s varieties put out more, heavier seeds instead. They caught on like smartphones. Over the next 40 years the green revolution spread round the world, helping ensure that, where its seeds were planted, famines became things of the past.