Darshan S Brar, who has been working for years on rice hybrids at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, talks about gene transfer techniques that develop resistance to insects in plants.
THE International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is located very picturesquely amidst emerald green paddy fields against a backdrop of hills in Los Banos, Philippines. The institute has generated many controversies and has even been accused of stealing germplasm from rice-growing countries. Hybrid rice varieties developed at IRRI in the 1960s and 1970s require heavy inputs of expensive fertilisers and pesticides and they are blamed today for both degrading the land and marginalising poor farmers. But IRRI scientists are quick to defend their institute. Said a spokesperson, "Our gene bank is a means of conserving germplasm, not of controlling it. Today, the raison d'etre of our research is to grow about 75 per cent more rice on the same amount of land and to do it in a sustainable way." To find out about some of IRRI's new breakthroughs in rice research, Down To Earth spoke to Darshan S Brar, an associate plant breeder at the institute, who has been working for years on rice hybrids.
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