'Father of Hybrid Rice' sows another business venture

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Author: GRAIN
Date: 16 May 2006
Short URL: /e/1619

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GRAIN | 16 May 2006 | Hybrid rice files (2002-2010)

In March 2006, the China National Hybrid Rice R&D Center signed a letter of intent with Toronto-based Hangfeng Evergreen to test and market the company's Sulfur Coated Urea slow-release fertilizer in China’s main rice growing regions. According to Hangfeng, the joint venture is to be led by Dr. Yuan Longping- the "Father of Hybrid Rice".

Hybrid rice and chemical fertilizers go hand-in-hand. The "super" hybrid rice varieties that Yuan has recently developed are especially greedy for fertilizers.They attain their high-yields because of their capacity to ingest large volumes of chemical fertilizers-- even as this leaves them susceptible to disease. With the state's full backing of these varieties, there's big money to be made in fertlizers in China's hybrid paddy fields.

So it's no surprise to see Yuan and his research centre deal-making with fertilizer companies.  We previously reported on Yuan's activities in the private sector in our March 2005 update on hybrid rice in Asia:

Yuan is the figurehead for an extensive national consortium of scientists, research centres, and private companies working on hybrid rice in the country. He is the Director General of the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Centre (CNHRRDC), by far the world's largest research centre devoted to hybrid rice. The main private arm of the Yuan Longping consortium is the Yuan Longping High-Tech Agricultural Company, which is 5% owned by Yuan himself. There is also the Yuan Longping Hybrid Rice International Company, a diversified seed joint venture between the CNHRRDC, the China Business Group of the US and RiceTec, the US's leading hybrid rice seed company.

The consortium's operations extend across Asia. In the Philippines, it operates a joint venture with local billionaire Henry Lim Bon Liong called SL Agritech and co-operates with the Philippine-Sino Centre for Agricultural Technology that was set up by the Chinese and Philippine governments to test the adaptability of Chinese hybrids in the archipelago. All of the 40 Chinese hybrids the Centre evaluated in 2004 were named after Yuan Longping. SL Agritech's SL8 hybrid rice variety is marketed with a poster saying: "For the welfare of mankind, from L.P. Yuan." ... In Malaysia, where previous experiments with hybrid rice failed miserably, Yuan Longping signed a deal in August 2004 with the national research agency (MARDI) and a local foundation of the Yayasan Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin to set up a hybrid rice research centre in Perlis. The centre will import Chinese hybrid parental lines to produce seed, thereby avoiding Malaysian regulations that prevent the import of rice seeds for sale.

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