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Scientists Complete Advanced Draft Sequence of Rice Genome

Marti Asner (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2002--Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE) announced today completion of an advanced draft, or blueprint, of the rice genome. This milestone concludes the second phase of the rice-sequencing effort initiated under the coordination of the Japanese Rice Genome Program to improve the quality and increase yields of a staple consumed by over half of mankind. Earlier today a similar ceremony was held in Japan.

“Decoding the rice genome is an important scientific achievement that can lead to improved nutrition and aid in efforts to eliminate hunger throughout the world,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. “This scientific partnership between the United States and Japan continues to demonstrate our commitment to advancing research and science.”

Launched in 1998, the project is a multinational effort to map the rice genome’s 12 chromosomes. USDA, NSF and DOE provided a total of $14.4 million in U.S. funds. In addition to the United States and Japan, participating countries include Brazil, China, France, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. European Union members are participating as well.

The United States research is based at the Institute for Genomic Research in Maryland, Clemson University in South Carolina, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, Washington University in Missouri and the University of Arizona. Overall, the U.S. rice genome effort is part of the national plant genome initiative to understand the structure and function of genes in plants important to agriculture, the environment and health.

According to NSF Director Rita R. Colwell, “The rice genome’s sequence is crucial to our scientific understanding of the staples of life. With this data we open new doors at all levels of research: the universities, private industry and government.”

Data derived from the project will benefit many research areas because rice shares common sets of genes with most of the world’s major economic crops including corn, wheat, rye, barley, sorghum, sugarcane and millet.

“Sequencing the rice genome is a wonderful example of global partnerships that can define future efforts in science research,” said Raymond L. Orbach, Director of DOE’s Office of Science. “This accomplishment in plant genomics can open global opportunities for new uses of plants in energy and environmental resource management.”

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