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Economic and Environmental Impact of Rice Blast Pathogen (Magnaporthe oryzae) Alleviation in the United States

Lawton Nalley, Francis Tsiboe (), Alvaro Durand-Morat, Aaron Shew () and Greg Thoma

PLOS ONE, 2016, vol. 11, issue 12, 1-15

Abstract: Rice blast (Magnaporthe oryzae) is a key concern in combating global food insecurity given the disease is responsible for approximately 30% of rice production losses globally—the equivalent of feeding 60 million people. These losses increase the global rice price and reduce consumer welfare and food security. Rice is the staple crop for more than half the world’s population so any reduction in rice blast would have substantial beneficial effects on consumer livelihoods. In 2012, researchers in the US began analyzing the feasibility of creating blast-resistant rice through cisgenic breeding. Correspondingly, our study evaluates the changes in producer, consumer, and environmental welfare, if all the rice produced in the Mid-South of the US were blast resistant through a process like cisgenics, using both international trade and environmental assessment modeling. Our results show that US rice producers would gain 69.34 million dollars annually and increase the rice supply to feed an additional one million consumers globally by eliminating blast from production in the Mid-South. These results suggest that blast alleviation could be even more significant in increasing global food security given that the US is a small rice producer by global standards and likely experiences lower losses from blast than other rice-producing countries because of its ongoing investment in production technology and management. Furthermore, results from our detailed life cycle assessment (LCA) show that producing blast-resistant rice has lower environmental (fossil fuel depletion, ecotoxicity, carcinogenics, eutrophication, acidification, global warming potential, and ozone depletion) impacts per unit of rice than non-blast resistant rice production. Our findings suggest that any reduction in blast via breeding will have significantly positive impacts on reducing global food insecurity through increased supply, as well as decreased price and environmental impacts in production.

Date: 2016
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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167295

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