There was a slightly odd article at Seed Magazine a little while back on Thailand’s efforts to conserve almost extinct varieties of rice in its genebank. Odd because while the story is familiar enough in this kind of piece, the details are slightly confused (or confusing). But no matter, that’s probably only of concern to a pedant like me. The rest of you won’t worry about statements like “farmers across Asia once grew more than 100 varieties of rice, but now that number is down to only 20 or 30 of the most productive types”. Instead, you’ll be thrilled to know that the Thai national collection houses nearly 24,000 varieties, 17,000 of which “are in danger of dying out because they are no longer grown by Thai farmers”. That’s great because SINGER, a window on the world of genebank accessions, lists only 5982 samples from Thailand. Maybe one of those is “the fragrant Pin Kaew variety that was named the best rice in the world at a competition in 1966 but which has since disappeared, having lost out to more productive varieties”.
flickr photo by Stef Noble used under a Creative Commons license. Purple Sticky Rice is rare, but not that rare.