November of this year marked the 50th anniversary of the official release of IR8, the “miracle rice” that changed the world.
The rice, developed at IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) greatly increased yields compared to other varieties of the time, and is thought to have saved the lives millions of people who would otherwise have died of starvation in India and Southeast Asia.
Birthday celebrations recently took place in India and the Philippines, with speakers who contributed to this remarkable feat of plant breeding and insight.
The IRRI IR8 page has a timeline of the development of this miracle rice, photos of the birthday celebrations, and links to several articles that look at the social and scientific impacts of IR8. The BBC also has an article on the impact of IR8.
Along with the development of dwarf varieties of wheat produced by Normal Borlaug and colleagues, the development of IR8 was one of the most important scientific accomplishments of the 20th century and has had a much greater impact on humanity than any other achievement, including the “war on cancer” and the “race to the moon“, two big-ticket scientific efforts that occurred concurrently.
These are great resources to share with your students, colleagues and children – let’s make the story of IR8 as widely known as the story of the moon landing.