High-Yield Rice (IR8)

Asia was on the edge of an epic famine large enough to cause widespread death and civil unrest. Both the Ford and Rockefeller Foundation responded by founding and funding a thinktank to create higher-yield rice, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Straightaway, they sent a team of mainly American scientists to research if anything could be done.

Genetic manipulation of plants and animals is ancient. For ages, humans have cross-bred different plants and animals to create entirely new versions. Broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, kale, bananas, and a myriad of other vegetables and fruits are the result of selective cross-breeding. Furthermore, cows, chickens, sheep, horses, and dogs are for the most part also human creations.

More recent genetic manipulation involves directly changing genetic material. However, these techniques did not exist at the time scientists worked on this problem.

Eventually, IRRI scientists cross-bred over 10,000 varieties of rice and, eventually, found one that yielded 8-10 times the output of any individual rice strain. Specifically, their rice crossed a high-yield short strain from Indonesia with a low-yield tall strain from China. Unquestionably, the resulting rice averted a dire famine and fed countless hungry mouths.

To this day, IR8 rice continues to sell though newer strains produce even higher-yield and specialty rice. In 2019, IR8 and similar rice feeds approximately 700 million people daily.