By HUIZHONG WU, Associated Press
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Yuan Longping, a Chinese scientist who developed higher-yielding varieties of rice that helped feed people around the world, died in a hospital in the southern city of Changsha on Saturday, reported the Xinhua News Agency. He was 91 years old.
Yuan spent his life researching rice and was a household name in China, known as the “Father of Hybrid Rice”. Globally, a fifth of all rice now comes from species created by hybrid rice following Yuan’s groundbreaking discoveries, according to the website for the World Food Prize, which he won in 2004.
On Saturday afternoon, large crowds honored the scientist as they passed the Hunan Province hospital where he died, local media reported, shouting phrases such as, “Grandpa Ye, have a nice trip!”
It was in the 1970s that Yuan made the breakthroughs that would make him a household name. He developed a hybrid strain of rice that recorded an annual yield 20% higher than existing varieties – meaning it could feed an additional 70 million people a year, according to Xinhua.
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His work helped transform China from “food deficiency to food security” in three decades, according to the World Food Prize, created by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug in 1986 to reward scientists and others that have improved the quality and availability of food. .
Yuan and his team have worked with dozens of countries around the world to address food security and malnutrition issues.
Even in his later years, Yuan did not stop researching. In 2017, in collaboration with an agricultural school in Hunan, he helped create a low-cadmium indica rice strain for areas suffering from heavy metal pollution, reducing the amount of cadmium in rice by more by 90%.
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