26 May 2022 ~ Early this year, CGIAR centers IRRI and WorldFish were the recipients of the grand prize given out by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in their inaugural Seeding the Future Global Food System Challenge. A new article published this month by IFT features interviews with the awardees, as they discuss their winning initiatives and how these creative and sustainable solutions have the potential to positively impact the lives of millions and transform the global food system.
The Seeding The Future Challenge focuses on scalable and high-impact innovations that reside at the intersection of three domains: safe and nutritious food for a healthy diet; food that is produced sustainably and without waste; and food that is accessible, appealing, affordable, and trusted by consumers. In the first year of the Challenge, nearly 900 applications were submitted from startups, nonprofits, universities, research institutions, and multi-organization collaborations, from more than 60 countries.
The grand prize-winning initiative from IRRI was the arsenic-safe rice project. Waters from the huge footprint of the arsenic-rich Himalayas flow everywhere in East Asia, and growing rice—the overwhelming staple of regional diets—requires lots of irrigation water that can’t be filtered for the toxic heavy metal. Lead scientist of the project Dr. Jauhar Ali shares in his interview that the project’s goal is to identify, test, and deploy new or existing arsenic-excluding rice varieties that are much safer for human and animal consumption, to create health and socioeconomic benefits in arsenic-polluted regions such as the drainage basin of the Himalayas.
“We know the exact locations of the genes, and that puts us in the strong position that no one has to breed anything—it’s already bred,” says Dr. Ali. “Now we just need to get the material further into the market and share it freely. There is no intellectual property protection. It should be freely available to people, and people should be able to benefit from it.”