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example, has received a large grant from ACiAr
to build new labs and buy new equipment.
CGiAr does not have a separate program
on genetic research, but genetics certainly cut
across all of our programs. Molecular breeding
forms the basis of much of the work carried out
today by our 15 centres.
in almost all of the centres, the application of
molecular breeding to understand the genetic
diversity in our gene banks was just a dream
10 years ago, but today it is a reality. Centres
such as irri are now not only breeding plants
that have a higher productivity or are disease
resistant, but they are also breeding plants that
are resistant to abiotic stresses, which was not
possible 10 years ago.
One of the key genes discovered by irri
enables rice to be submergence tolerant.
Almost all the hybrid rice varieties today have
incorporated this gene and are available to
farmers on a wide scale.
to date, CGiAr has developed more than
7,000 improved varieties and released them
as public goods. worldwide, 60% of all land
planted with improved varieties includes
varieties produced by CGiAr centres.
Australia, which ranks among the world’s
top 10 wheat-producing countries, devotes as
much as 98% of the area sown to wheat in the
country to varieties developed by CiMMYt.
CGiAr is also the custodian of very large
collections of plant genetic material with the
necessary diversity on which we can build.
we also need more holistic approaches that
span from the microscope to the marketplace—
approaches that not only integrate the latest
science and technology to breed better varieties
more quickly, but also use effective strategies to
get those varieties to small-scale farmers.
CGiAr research puts real benefits into farmers’
hands. And we are getting better at making
sure that our innovations reach the farmers
who need them.
we understand how to influence real
people, and not just by increasing productivity.
in recent years, for example, we have focused
on growing more nutritious crops. Many of
our impact stories can be found on the CGiAr
Although the food price spikes in recent
years have led to a scramble for natural
resources, they have also put food security back
at the top of the agenda. we certainly feel that
science can help grow more food using less
land and less water, thereby limiting our natural
CGiAr has a promising agenda that harnesses
the potential of science. we are also pleased that
out work benefits Australia and are very grateful
that Australia is a strong supporter of international
research and agriculture through ACiAr and the
Australian Government Overseas Aid Program. n
More information: dr Frank Rijsberman,
about the author
Dr Frank rijsberman ser ved as director-general of the
Inter national water Management Institute (IwMI), one of
the 15 CGIAr Consor tium research Centers, from 2000 to
2007. At IwMI he initiated the Comprehensive Assessment
of water Management in Agriculture and he developed
and led the Challenge Program on water and Food. He
then moved to Google to lead their philanthropic team.
He has more than 30 years’ experience as a researcher and
consultant in natural resources management in developing,
transition and developed economies. He has consulted for
numerous international and bilateral organisations and
co -founded resource Analysis, a research and consulting
firm in his native Holland. In 1997 he was appointed full
professor at uneSCO-IHe, International Institute for water
education. He obtained his bachelor ’s and master ’s degrees
in civil engineering from Delft university of technology
in the netherlands, and earned a multidisciplinar y PhD
in water resources planning and management and civil
engineering from Colorado State university, uS.
Photo: isaGani serrano
this essay was reprinted from Focus magazine with
permission of the Australian Academy of technological
Sciences and engineering (AtSe). Focus is produced to
stimulate discussion and public policy initiatives on key
topics of interest to AtSe and Australia.
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