DECEMBER 2018 SEEDWORLD.COM / 131 effects of climate change on our food systems," he says. He also presided over the launch of a communication strategy for Ethiopian Biotechnology Institute (EBTi), which has an overarching goal of improving the knowledge and aware- ness in biotechnology and biosafety among stakeholders nationally. It is also targeted at enabling members of the public to make informed deci- sions about appropriate uses of biotechnology by provid- ing accurate information about the benefits, risks, and impacts of crop biotech in a timely manner. The Minister acknowledged the importance of an effective communication strategy and a functional biosafety system, without which it becomes dif- ficult to pursue safe biotech- nology development and tap benefits of the technology in the country and the region. "EBTi is mandated to provide an appropriate and effective implementation of agricul- tural biotechnology research and communication with the involvement of key national and international stakehold- ers," Gizaw says. EBTi Director General, Kassahun Tesfaye, explained that the strategy will provide a national communication and outreach program that allows policymakers and key stake- holders to share knowledge and make informed decisions that enhance the acceptance and use of the technology and help achieve national goals. STATUS PHILIPPINES The world‘s largest rice collec- tion is to receive permanent funding for the conserva- tion and sharing of 136,000 varieties of the staple crop that feeds more than three billion people worldwide. The agreement between the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Crop Trust, which guarantees funding worth US$1.4 million a year, in perpetuity, will be signed on World Food Day, October 16, during the 5th International Rice Congress in Singapore. “This is fantastic news for the future of rice research,” says Matthew Morell, Director General of IRRI. “Half of the world’s population — around 3.5 billion people — eats rice every day and the IRRI gen- ebank is fundamental to global efforts to make the rice sector more resilient, sustainable and equitable. The Crop Trust fund- ing enables IRRI to focus on using its large and diverse rice collection to benefit the world.” Scientists worldwide use the seeds stored at IRRI’s high-tech facility in Los Baños, Philippines to develop improved rice varieties that can withstand climate change impacts—such as severe flooding and drought—while keeping pace with the growing world population and chang- ing consumer preferences. By 2050, annual global rice con- sumption is estimated to rise from 450 million to 525 million tons. Asians eat more than 90 percent of this rice; the region’s 515 million hungry are particu- larly dependent on the staple. This is in addition to demand for rice in Africa growing at almost 7 percent per year. Scientists at IRRI have used the rice samples stored in the bank to develop rice breakthroughs tailored to climate extremes like drought and flooding which are already threatening produc- tion in key rice-producing regions, including India, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia. One major innovation is set to benefit farmers tending to some 20 million hectares of rice land across Asia regularly hit by flooding. Whereas most rice dies within days of submer- gence under water, “scuba rice” withstands flooding for up to two weeks. This rice is currently grown by five million farmers in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Laos, the Philippines and Indonesia. Researchers are now adapting the rice for Africa. Ruaraidh Sackville- Hamilton, an evolutionary biol- ogist who manages the IRRI genebank says: “Our work to conserve rice has a proven track record in bringing ben- efits to the world. With this collection safely conserved, we can continue to use it to develop improved rice varie- ties that farmers can use to respond to the challenges in rice production and to adapt to the changing tastes and preferences of consumers everywhere.” SW