An unexpected source of irony …

Rice, the staple diet of half the world’s population produces about 17% of anthropogenic methane.

Methane traps about 20 times as much heat as carbon dioxide.

The world’s population is increasing.

Rice does the photosynthesis thing in its leaves. The resulting carbohydrates find their way to the seeds. That’s a good thing. Much also finds its way to the wet soil around the roots. That’s where microorganisms make the methane. That’s a bad thing.

The distribution of the carbohydrate is, to some extent under genetic control. You may have already caught on to where this is going.

the addition of a single transcription factor gene, barley SUSIBA2, conferred a shift of carbon flux to SUSIBA2 rice, favouring the allocation of photosynthates to aboveground biomass over allocation to roots. The altered allocation resulted in an increased biomass and starch content in the seeds and stems, and suppressed methanogenesis, possibly through a reduction in root exudates. Three-year field trials in China demonstrated that the cultivation of SUSIBA2 rice was associated with a significant reduction in methane emissions and a decrease in rhizospheric methanogen levels. SUSIBA2 rice offers a sustainable means of providing increased starch content for food production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from rice cultivation.

G M Rice could feed the masses without pushing up the temperature. What will Prince Charles make of that?

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