Rice is endangered: Thousands of native varieties of rice extinct

Hyderabad:  Is rice dying? Environment experts feel that the rich biodiversity of rice is fast depleting with only a handful of commercially viable varieties being cultivated the world over.

In the last 100 years as many as 1,00,000 varieties of rice have simply vanished from the fields. Today there are fewer than a dozen varieties planted in 70 per cent of the land under rice. Indian rice varieties are famous for their quality, aroma and grain length and any disturbance to the rice biodiversity will have a catastrophic impact on the agro-economy of the country.

Tinkering with rice like attempts to produce golden rice and GE rice has come in for sharp criticism from biodiversity experts.

“Rice is not just a daily source of calories. It is intrinsically linked to Asian lifestyles and heritage,” argues Aziz Choudry, researcher and activist from New Zealand.

A fact sheet published by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP) points out that rice is the staple food for half the people on Earth, and is at the heart of Asia’s diverse cultures. Yet its future, along with that of millions of small-scale rive farmers, many of them women, is in jeopardy. “Transnational corporations are shifting control of rice production away from farming communities which have grown and nurtured countless rive varieties over centuries,” it adds.

Dr Ricarda A Steinbrecher, co-director of EcoNexus, a public interest research organisation based in the UK,  cautions that with the advent of science and modern technology in agriculture, the arrival of uniform seeds, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, the rich diversity of rice varieties has decreased drastically.

“With three billion people consuming rice, profits promise to be high for any company or corporation that can acquire proprietary rights over the rice seed. Genetic engineering is an important tool towards this end as it enables companies to claim ownership over the “new seeds” they have “invented” giving them a legal basis to control its sale and use,” Dr Ricarda clarifies.

Charito P Medina, environmental biologist from the Philippines, said there was no need for “golden rice”, which is genetically modified to hold more quantity of vitamin A. “Vegetables and fruits like sweet potatoes, mangoes and carrots are rich in vitamin A and there is no need to include vitamin A in rice,” Charito added.

Crop and water productivity as influenced by rice cultivation methods under organic and inorganic sources of nutrient supply

Crop and water productivity as influenced by rice cultivation methods under organic and inorganic sources of nutrient supply
Author by Y.V. Singh, Centre for Conservation and Utilization of Blue Green Algae (CCUBGA), Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi – 110 012, India, Email: yvsingh63@yahoo.co.in; yvsingh_algal@iari.res.in
Source: Paddy and Water Environment [http://www.springerlink.com/content/j483155l860236t1/]
Publication Date: 28 August 2012


A field experiment was conducted during the wet seasons of 2010 and 2011 at New Delhi, India to study the influence of organic, inorganic, and integrated sources of nutrient supply under three methods of rice cultivation on rice yield and water productivity. The experiments were laid out in FRBD with nine treatment combinations. Treatment combinations included three sources of nutrient supply viz., organic, integrated nutrient management, and inorganic nutrition and three rice production systems viz., conventional transplanting, system of rice intensification (SRI) and aerobic rice system. indicated that the conventional and SRI showed at par grain and straw yields but their yields were significantly higher than aerobic rice. Grain yield under organic, inorganic and integrated sources of nutrient supply was at par since the base nutrient dose was same. Plant growth parameters like plant height, tillers, and dry matter accumulation at harvest stage were almost same under conventional and SRI but superior than aerobic rice system. Root knot nematode infestation was significantly higher in aerobic rice as compared to SRI and conventional rice. However, organic, inorganic and integrated sources of nutrient supply did not affect nematode infestation. There was significant advantage in term of water productivity under SRI over conventional transplanted (CT) rice and less quantity of water was utilized in SRI for production of each unit of grain. A water saving of 34.5–36.0 % in SRI and 28.9–32.1 % in aerobic rice was recorded as compared to CT rice.

Partitioning of CH4 and CO2 production originating from rice straw, soil and root organic carbon in rice microcosms

Partitioning of CH4 and CO2 production originating from rice straw, soil and root organic carbon in rice microcosms
Author(s): Quan Yuan, Judith Pump, Ralf Conrad
Source: PLoS ONE | November 5, 2012

Flooded rice fields are an important source of the greenhouse gas CH4. Possible carbon sources for CH4 and CO2 production in rice fields are soil organic matter (SOM), root organic carbon (ROC) and rice straw (RS), but partitioning of the flux between the different carbon sources is difficult. We conducted greenhouse experiments using soil microcosms planted with rice.


India’s widely grown rice variety helps keeping diabetes at bay

Washington: Scientists have found that the glycemic index (GI) of rice varies a lot from one type of rice to another, with most varieties scoring a low to medium GI.

And they have revealed that rice varieties such as India’s most widely grown rice variety, Swarna, have a low GI.

The findings of the research, which analyzed 235 types of rice from around the world, is good news because it not only means rice can be part of a healthy diet for the average consumer, but it also means people with diabetes, or at risk of diabetes, can select the right rice to help maintain a healthy, low-GI diet.

The study found that the GI of rice ranges from a low of 48 to a high of 92, with an average of 64.

The research team from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Food Futures Flagship also identified the key gene that determines the GI of rice, an important achievement that offers rice breeders the opportunity to develop varieties with different GI levels to meet consumer needs.

Future development of low-GI rice would also enable food manufacturers to develop new, low-GI food products based on rice.

Dr. Melissa Fitzgerald, who led the IRRI team, said that GI is a measure of the relative ability of carbohydrates in foods to raise blood sugar levels after eating.

“Understanding that different types of rice have different GI values allows rice consumers to make informed choices about the sort of rice they want to eat,” she said.

“Rice varieties such as India’s most widely grown rice variety, Swarna, have a low GI and varieties such as Doongara from Australia and Basmati have a medium GI,” Dr. Fitzgerald noted.

Dr. Tony Bird, CSIRO Food Futures Flagship researcher, said that low-GI diets offer a range of health benefits: “Low-GI diets can reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, and are also useful for helping diabetics better manage their condition.

“This is good news for diabetics and people at risk of diabetes who are trying to control their condition through diet, as it means they can select the right rice to help maintain a healthy, low-GI diet,” he added.

Low-GI foods are those measured 55 and less, medium-GI foods are those measured between 56 and 69, while high-GI foods measure 70 and above.

When food is measured to have a high GI, it means it is easily digested and absorbed by the body, which often results in fluctuations in blood sugar levels that can increase the chances of getting diabetes, and make management of type 2 diabetes difficult.

Conversely, foods with low GI are those that have slow digestion and absorption rates in the body, causing a gradual and sustained release of sugar into the blood, which has been proven beneficial to health, including reducing the chances of developing diabetes.

Eating rice with other foods can help reduce the overall GI of a meal and, when combined with regular exercise, can reduce the chances of getting diabetes. In addition, people who exercise need more carbohydrates in their diet and can take advantage of low-GI foods for sustained activity.

Rice plays a strong role in global food security. Being the staple for about 3.5 billion people, it is important to maximize the nutritional value of rice. Low-GI rice will have a particularly important role in the diets of people who derive the bulk of their calories from rice and who cannot afford to eat rice with other foods to help keep the GI of their diet low. Low-GI rice could help to keep diabetes at bay in these communities.

This is the first of several studies the group plans to carry out based on investigating the role of rice in mitigating chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Eating our way to rice-diversity


By Sreedevi Lakshmi Kutty, ENS – THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

04th July 2012 11:11 AM

  • Studies have established that the causative link to diabetes is with “polished white rice” not any rice. EPS
    Studies have established that the causative link to diabetes is with “polished white rice” not any rice. EPS

Recently, studies have established that the causative link to diabetes is with “polished white rice” not any rice. It is increasingly being established that unpolished red and brown rice do not cause diabetes.

Rice is my soul food, what I long for when I am hungry and what I miss when I don’t get it. Belonging to the post-green revolution generation, white rice came into our family pretty early despite living in the land of red rice, Kerala.

When we were young, my great grandmother who cultivated our ancestral paddy lands used to send us unpolished parboiled red rice. When she became bedridden the lands were left fallow, eventually sold, and the money used to buy a then much-coveted refrigerator, prompting my mother to say, “we sold our rice-growing lands to buy an ice-box to store stale-cooked rice!”

I lived in different cities in India and abroad and bought polished white rice. I was concerned about the quality and price, beyond that I didn’t think it mattered. Moving to Mumbai, I found that the south Indian stores provided red rice; sadly, this was red only in name and appearance. The colour washed off like from a bad fabric!

Paddy Problems

It was at this juncture, as part of my work with agriculture and food issues, I got involved with the ‘Save Our Rice’ campaign. It was at this time that the spread of diabetes in India, particularly in the south, began to be associated with the consumption of rice.

Recently, studies have established that the causative link to diabetes is with “polished white rice” not any rice. It is increasingly being established that unpolished red and brown rice do not cause diabetes. In fact, red rice is known to have many beneficial health effects and is also nutritionally superior.

Watching and sharing the dilemma of the farmers, I realised that we as consumers have a role in reviving rice.

To save agro-biodiversity, we have to eat diverse foods, thereby promoting their cultivation and propagation -that is exactly how rice consumers will become rice savers!

Whither Rice-diversity

We, in India, are rich in rice heritage and had till about 40 years back over 1,10,000 varieties of rice; now we are down to about 6,000 varieties, according to Dr Debal Deb, one of the foremost rice savers in India.

Why do we need this diversity? We need it to keep the robustness of the crop and diversity aids the evolution of stronger and more adaptable varieties.

And how do we protect this diversity? Simply by growing and eating. The more varieties of rice we all eat, greater the range of varieties farmers will grow season after season.

Rice Delights

During the last few years I have eaten various kinds of red rice – raw and par boiled with full bran or partly removed, the fragrant ‘Gandhakasala’ from Wayanad, the smell of which tempted my aged and ill father to eat rice after many days, ‘Mullankazhama’ – a lovely flower-like rice which makes delicious ‘payasam’ and the small grained brown rice called ‘Komal’, cultivated by Susheel an organic farmer and a good friend.

I have also come across other rice varieties like the ‘Rajamudi’ rice used by the Wadiyars of Mysore, the fascinating variety named ‘Thavalakannan’ (literally means frog’s eyes) which is favoured by temples in Kerala for preparing beaten rice flakes and ‘Njavara’ rice that is recommended for diabetics. There are rice varieties that are good for lactating women and numerous rices with medicinal properties as well.

Why don’t we unearth some of the indigenous rices we have and their uses and find innovative ways to cook them for our families?  In Karnataka, farmers are conserving around 140 varieties of rice, in Tamil Nadu, around 40 varieties are distributed every year through a seed mela, groups in Wayanad are trying to conserve traditional varieties used by the tribals, even in Thane, Mumbai, over a hundred varieties of rice are being conserved.

‘Natabara Sarangi’, a rice saver in Orissa, conserves 310 varieties. But, we need more rice savers who relish traditional rice, to conserve the most valuable grain known to mankind.

(The author works with groups promoting safe food, urban farming and sustainable agriculture and currently lives in The Hague, Netherlands)

India denies GMO contamination in basmati


Author(s): Jyotika Sood

Date: May 30, 2012
EU had sought clarification after finding genetically modified organisms in the exported rice

riceBasmati rice is famous for pleasant aroma, superfine texture and extreme elongation (Credit:cookbookman17)India has denied allegations levied by the European Commission on genetically modified organisms (GMO) contamination in basmati rice exported from India.
The Directorate-General Health and Consumers (DGHC) of the European Commission had issued a notification to the Union ministry of commerce and industry on May 2 seeking a reply on an unknown and unauthorised GMO being found in the rice exported from India. The notification was issued following a complaint by a French manufacturer Soufflet Alimentaire to European Union’s Rapid Alert System of Food and Feed (RASFF) on January 5. The company packs basmati rice for retail sale. As part of its monitoring plan, the company detected presence of genetically modified rice in a batch which consisted of basmati rice from four different suppliers–three Pakistani and one Indian.

According to sources in the ministry,the government in its reply to director general of DGHC has  informed that no GM food crops are being grown in India and so there is no question of contamination.

In the notification, Paolo Testori Coggi, director general of DGHC asked the Indian government about its official policy on cultivation of GMOs for food and feed use; list of GMOs currently authorised for cultivation in India and official controls in place; field trials of GMOs been undertaken either in the past or present; controls in place concerning the export of rice to the EU for the presence of GMOs; geographical indication of the primary basmati growing regions and source of seed for cultivation of basmati rice in India and tests done in regard to GM presence. She added that the marketing of the product by the French company has been suspended pending further investigations.

The issue of GMO contamination of basmati rice was raised at the preparatory meeting for the Convention on Biological Diversity, convened by Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on May 29. At the meeting Aruna Rodrigues, lead petitioner in a public interest litigation seeking moratorium on GM testing in the country, questioned the silence of the commerce ministry on the issue. She complained that the way field trials are being regulated and monitored in India, contamination by genetically modified organisms could not be denied.

Is it for the first time?

In April this year, Richard Werren, the managing director of UK-based safety certification firm Cert ID Europe, had cautioned doubling of border alerts involving imported rice compared to last year. In an interview to a UK  media he had stated that “the unauthorised GMOs have been turning up in consignment of basmati rice from India and Pakistan.”


imageCredit: www.enterisi.it
The recent figures from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed reported 26 border rejections in 2012, which are up from 11 in 2010 with most involved rice products, according to Cert ID. The results were reached by putting basmati rice to polymerase chain reaction testing that proved the products contained GMOs unauthorized by the EU.

He reportedly also said that “the source of the contamination may be that the more expensive basmati rice is being adulterated with cheap genetically modified rice.”

Basmati market

Basmati rice is a variety of rice which fetches good export price in the international market because of its three features–pleasant aroma, superfine texture and extreme elongation. The aromatic variety of rice is grown majorly in India and Pakistan where India accounts for around 60 per cent of global export market share. About two-third of basmati rice produced in India is exported to various countries like US, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Kuwait, UAE and Europe.

Basmati traders estimate, India’s annual production in 2011 was around 4.5 million tonnes and it fetched around US $1,100 per tonne in global market. Recently India has been looking to China, Mexico and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as new markets for its basmati exports. China has already allowed Indian basmati rice to be imported.

The traders say that India basmati rice is already under scrutiny for high pesticide content. Now the allegations of GMO are going to hamper the trade at a time when the country is eyeing more export market.


Protecting Oryza in Odisha

by Shalini Bhutani | December 07, 2011

The eastern Indian state of Odisha is regarded as the place of origin of Oryza sativa, the plant species commonly known as rice. In fact, many believe that Odisha even got its name from the term “oryza”. Now however, Odisha is fast becoming the centre of action on intellectual property rights on rice in India. The Delhi-based national Protection of Plant Variety Authority has started a massive rice varieties registration initiative with the State Government of Odisha.

Plant variety protection (“PVP”) is a type of intellectual property. PVP laws grant economic rights known as plant breeder rights (“PBR”) to breeders vis-a-vis the new, distinct, uniform, and stable varieties of crops that they develop. This intellectual property right is of European origin. In the 1950s, countries in Europe started designing laws for protecting to protect the interests of their plant breeders. This was extended throughout Europe through the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (“the UPOV”), which was established in 1961 by the UPOV Convention.

It is critical to understand the relationship between the implementation of PVP laws and the World Trade Organisation Organization (“the WTO”) and its intellectual property rights (IPR) agreement, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“the TRIPS Agreement”). Even though the text of the TRIPS Agreement does not mention the UPOV, the latter has been pushed by the developed world as the “effective sui generis system” by which to implement the TRIPS Agreement. Developing country governments that were reluctant to make laws allowing patents on plants were shown the UPOV as the way out for complianceto comply with the TRIPS Agreement. This was convenient for developing countries in several ways. Their administrators could avoid the hard work of designing something from scratch for the specific needs of their own country. They agreed to use the ready-made solution offered by the UPOV model; other governments were forced to do so. This also meant that there would be no risk of not gaining acceptability from other WTO member countries. Further, for governments that had also faced public opposition to patents on life forms, lawmakers could simply point to the characteristics of PVP, which make it look relatively less restricting. For instance, in a PVP law, unlike in a patent law, the “research exemption” can allow others to use the breeder’s protected material for research purposes. More importantly, the PVP law can (optionally) provide for a “farmer’s privilege”, which would permit farmers and small growers to save and re-use seeds from the PVP-protected variety. The term of protection under PVP law (fifteen years) is also shorter than that for patents (twenty years).

Does the PVP law protect the rights of the farmers of Odisha adequately?

Image above and on article thumbnail from rajkumar1220’s photostream on Flickr.

Image (but not the rest of the work) published under :

Creative Commons License

The fundamental problem remains – that agreeing to pass a PVP law means that a country is no longer against the grant of intellectual property rights on planting material. The supreme irony is that countries legislating for the first time on farmers’ rights have landed up situating them within a commercial law. This is how the South has lost the battle against the privatisation of life forms. In effect, it means that the so-called exception to patents that developing countries and less-developed countries legitimately had in the TRIPS Agreement has been reduced to naught. With PVP laws, patent-like protection is being given. This also forecloses possibilities of a discussion on interpreting ‘sui generis’ to mean methods outside of intellectual property rights to ‘protect’ plant breeders’ varieties.

Fifty years after UPOV and over fifteen years after the TRIPS Agreement, the global seed industry (including theInternational Seed Federation and the Asia and Pacific Seeds Association) is looking for tighter intellectual property protection for its seed products. Yet some European plant breeder associations want a breeder’s exemption even to patents, so that they have more material under patent protection available for breeding. Meanwhile, Tthe ‘maximalist’ agenda for intellectual property includes demands for the removal of the two exceptions from breeders’ rights that PVP laws currently permit. While this will reduce the distance between a PVP and a patent, there are also lobbying efforts underway for an extension of patentthe PVP terms to twenty-five years.

Since the economic ‘reforms’, the political economy has also undergone drastic changes. Liberalisation of agriculture has meant that more private players are encouraged in the seed sector. Large corporations now have a much larger role in seed production and agricultural research and development. Informal breeding by farmers is being systematically sidelined. Both, the public sector and private corporations, are in the race for PVP certificates, for existing as well as for new varieties.

India passed its PVP law – the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act (“the PPVFR Act”) in 2001. In 2003, the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Rules (“the PPVFR Rules”) were issued. In 2005, the PPVFR Authority (“the Authority”) was set up in Delhi. In 2009, the first PVP certificates were granted in India. Rice was amongst the first crops that the Central Government notified as eligible for the registration of varieties. In the Indian PVP law however, the fact that the definition of ‘breeder’ includes farmers, does not take away from the fact that the ‘protection’ offered by the law to even farmer-bred varieties is an intellectual property right. This is in complete contrast to the seed cultures that small farmers in India and elsewhere live by. The law and its ongoing implementation processes offer many sops to farmers to lure them into the PVP system. These include the waiver of fees and “genome saviour” awards such as the one awarded to the Panchbati Gramya Unyan Samiti of Koraput, Odisha. The law also promises a share of ‘benefits’ (read money) if and when the farmers’ material is used in the development of a new plant variety. For formal plant breeders, the varieties from the informal sector are important raw material from which to develop ‘new’ marketable products. Hence the drive to encourage farmers to register their varieties and have a sample of the same deposit samples of their varietiesed with the Plant Authority. It is however, pertinent to note that the Authority puts a time limit on the registration of farmer varieties (“FVs”).

Odisha’s former Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Damodar Rout, had recently announced that hundreds of traditional paddy varieties of the state would be registered under the PPVFR Act. As a consultant to the process, a significant role is envisaged for the Swaminathan Research Foundation in the collection of sample seeds of traditional varieties and their subsequent registration. Reportedly, the farmers who provide up to five kilograms of samples of their varieties and the basic information along with it will be recognised as facilitators. Ironically, the Minister’s announcement says that the ownership of these traditional rice varieties “shall be vested in the Government of Orissa, on behalf of the people…” Why should this be so, when the law expressly provides for a specific category – that of FVs? Meanwhile, the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (“the OUAT”) has already registered eight of its own varieties so far as extant varieties, including “‘Pratikhsya” ’ (ORS 201-5) (IET-15191) and “‘Jogesh” ’ (OR 1519-2) (IET-15169) for the seeds of which the Vice-Chancellor has the exclusive right to produce, sell, market, distribute, import, or export of the seeds of these two varieties for a initial term of six years commencing July 20, 2009. The DuPont-owned Pioneer Overseas Corporation has also sought PVP for hybrid rice varieties.

The members of the Rice Varieties Registration Committee in Odisha will be:

1. Director, Directorate of Agriculture and Food Production;

2. Dr. S.R. Dhua, Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack;

3. Dean, Research, OUAT;

4. J.D.A. (Special Programme and Crops), Directorate of Agriculture;

5. Dr. Baburam Singh, OUAT;

6. J.D.A. (Farms and Seeds), Directorate of Agriculture;

7. Dr. Ravi Kumar Pattnaik, Associate Dean, College of Agriculture, Bhawanipatna;,

8. Director, Orissa State Seed and Organic Products Certification Agency;

9. Dean, Extension, OUAT; and

10. Dr. Satya Ranjan Dash, Professor, Plant Breeding, OUAT.

The rice knowledge of farmers has to be protected from IPR and not by an IP system like PVP, which was designed to eventually put restrictions on farmer seed-saving. Those pushing for PVP certificates not only in Odisha but across India have to fully understand the long term implications of such variety registration. If the government authorities are genuinely interested to save the people’s know-how on rice, then they should not be encouraging the many potentially destructive development activities in the State of Odisha. That will be real plant PROTECTION of rice varieties.

Shalini Bhutani is a Delhi-based lawyer working independently on issues of trade, agriculture, and biodiversity.


Rice originated in India

Author(s): Aparna Pallavi
Fresh evidence from dung of dinosaurs changes many conceptions

Cross-section of the coprolite (circled) found by D M Mohabey’s team (Photo: Aparna Pallavi)

THE fight where and when rice originated has taken a new turn. An analysis of plant remains found in the dung of dinosaurs in Pisdura village of Chandrapur district in Maharashtra has revealed that dinosaurs had relished the staple much before humans added it to their diet. This pushes the origin of rice 35 million years back and raises the possibility that it had an Indian parent. Till now it was believed that rice originated about 30 million years ago in China.
“The fresh evidence also suggests that grass family Poaceae from which rice tribe Oryza originated much earlier than thought, and was quite evolved and diversified during the late Cretaceous period when dinosaurs thrived,” says Bandana Samant, paleopalynologist at RTM Nagpur University and co-author of the study. This fact, she says, also pushes back the evolution of angiosperms “The origin may be during the Triassic period instead of the Jurassic period.”
Unique To Pisdura
The dung or coprolites from which the evidence was culled were recovered from Pisdura village in Maharashtra in 2010 by Geological Survey of India (GSI). Dinosaur bones and eggs have periodically been found in Lamata sediment formations covering parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. In fact, the first Indian dinosaur was found in Pisdura by Stephen Hislop in 1859. The first coprolites were also found here by Charles Matley in 1939.
“The coprolites are unique because nowhere else have dung masses been found which are definitely attributed to dinosaurs,” says D M Mohabey, director, palaeontology GSI, Nagpur. The coprolites are found in soft sediments and keep surfacing during ploughing; no excavation is required, he adds.
For the study, the team analysed phytolyths—silica deposits in the plants—in samples of dung or coprolites. “Using phytolyths it is possible to identify the genus and species. It showed remains from the rice tribe,” says Samant. The study was published in Nature Communications on September 20.
Unique To Pisdura
The dung or coprolites from which the evidence was culled were recovered from Pisdura village in Maharashtra in 2010 by Geological Survey of India (GSI). Dinosaur bones and eggs have periodically been found in Lamata sediment formations covering parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. In fact, the first Indian dinosaur was found in Pisdura by Stephen Hislop in 1859. The first coprolites were also found here by Charles Matley in 1939.
“The coprolites are unique because nowhere else have dung masses been found which are definitely attributed to dinosaurs,” says D M Mohabey, director, palaeontology GSI, Nagpur. The coprolites are found in soft sediments and keep surfacing during ploughing; no excavation is required, he adds.
Single origin v multiple-origin
Whether rice originated in India or China has long been debated, says Ashok Sahani, emeritus scientist, Centre for Advanced Study in Geology, Lucknow University and co-author. Asian rice, Oryza sativa, is one of oldest crop species. It has tens of thousands of varieties and two major subspecies, japonica and indica. Archaeologists from southeast Asia contend that rice agriculture began in south-central China, along the Yangzte river, and spread from there southwards and to northeast towards Korea and Japan. Archaeologists in India argue that rice cultivation began in the Ganges river valley. There are also two theories of rice origin. Single-origin suggests that indica and japonica were domesticated once from the wild rice Oryza rufipogon. While multiple-origin proposes that these two major rice types were domesticated separately and in different parts of Asia.
The multiple-origin model gained currency in recent years as biologists observed significant genetic differences between indica and japonica, and several studies examining the evolutionary relationship among rice varieties supported domestication in both India and China. But the latest study published in the May 17 issue of PNAS supported the single-origin theory and concluded that Indian subspecies indica, of Oryza sativa, split from the Chinese japonica about 3,900 years ago.

Sahani says this finding is a definite evidence of the origin of rice in India. “In 65 MA India was an isolated landmass, separated from the rest of Asia by oceans. The study suggests a kind of Noah’s Ark status for the Indian landmass, from which plant wealth, including the rice tribe was dispersed when it collided with Asia,” says G V R Prasad, palaeontologist at the Department of Geology, Delhi University. “The findings will also impact the view on how the plant kingdom evolved and dispersed.”