Yuan Longping Myth How the father of hybrid rice rose to prominence

Editor’s note: This article was published in August 2018 in the public number “Huang Zhangjin”, and was deleted shortly after publication

More than a decade ago, I overheard an old classmate in Changsha’s official circles say that a young rice researcher had been suppressed by Yuan Longping, and not only was he unable to get funding, but he couldn’t even get a test field in hiding. At that time, Yuan Longping was a godlike figure, so I did not take it to heart.

Later, two events made me interested in Yuan Longping, one was the election of Xie Hua’an, a researcher at the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, as a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in December 2007, and the other was an online report on the alleged corruption of Longping High Tech, which had Yuan Longping’s signature (Yuan himself was not accused of being involved). The company’s main business is to provide a wide range of services to the public.

When we reported on Yuan Longping, we found that even if it was suspected of being a money spinner, it was not worth much reporting, and some of the whistleblowers died and some were disenchanted.

It is worth mentioning Xie Hua’an. When Xie was just elected to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, someone reported to Fang Zhouzi’s New Language Silk that Xie Hua’an’s paper was suspected of plagiarism. Although the new silk let Xie Hua’an disgrace, but for me, picking Xie Hua’an’s old bottom, but there is a restoration of honor for its meaning. Because I just know, China in addition to a “hybrid rice father”, there is a “hybrid rice mother”, the “mother of hybrid rice” is no one else, it is this Xie Hua’an.

Previously, I just learned from the media reports, Yuan Longping’s hybrid rice so that China’s rice yield increased by 20%, more to feed 70 million people, this time only to know that Yuan Longping’s hybrid rice cultivation, just promoted not long ago, due to a large outbreak of rice plague led to a poor harvest, at this time, Xie Hua’an cultivated hybrid rice “Shanyou 63 “The “Shanyou 63” of Xie Hua’an was the first in terms of sown area for 16 consecutive years.

Xie Hua’an elected academician into a scandal, can not help but be gossip and turn up all kinds of old scores: Yuan Longping, Xie Hua’an in academic theory is far from enough to declare a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, more suitable for the Academy of Engineering, and Xie Hua’an repeatedly failed to be elected to the Academy of Engineering, can not help but make people speculate because Yuan Longping in the Academy of Engineering.

I had a deep appreciation of the unreliability of the Chinese media, especially the official media, from my work experience at the time, but I never doubted that those sacred haloes over Yuan Longping’s head were not grossly exaggerated.

In early 2012, as Yuan Longping’s team and Xie Hua’an’s team set super rice records, there was finally an opportunity to systematically sort out the topic of hybrid rice and Yuan Longping. I remember that Phoenix Weekly reporter Yang Tong spent nearly a month on interviews to write this piece, and it should be the most informative and accurate among the related reports we can see today.

Because the article is not online, but this set of reports has almost no impact. However, I did not lose interest in the topic because of the 13,000-word report. Although I had the help of Fang Xuanchang and other colleagues who specialize in science and technology reporting, that group of reports still left something to be regretted, and many things were not really sorted out.

The most discussed and controversial issue today is whether Yuan Longping is the father of hybrid rice, and one of the main focuses of our reporters’ coverage back then was to uncover a large number of experts in hybrid rice that were not known to the public. In my opinion today, Yuan Longping is not really the “father of hybrid rice”, it is not worth as a focus, because this matter, probably not as important as you think.

Who keeps us from going hungry

The reason why we think that Yuan Longping is the father of hybrid rice is largely because we are impressed by the statement that the Chinese people are fed mainly by two pings: Deng Xiaoping, who represents the policy, and Yuan Longping, who represents the technology, that is to say, the package to the household + hybrid rice allows the Chinese people to stop going hungry.

Those who lived in the countryside during those years of historical transition should have deep memories of the impact of the contracted production system on agriculture. Moreover, the household contracting system was actually not officially allowed nationwide until the No. 1 document in 1982, so the period 1978-1982 left a large number of policy comparison cases, which is enough to prove the role of institutional incentives, this can be said separately later when there is an opportunity.

What about the technical half?

The main contributions to the increase in grain yields in China have been breeding techniques and fertilizer application. If we look at fertilizer, the relationship between fertilizer application and grain production in China over the past half century will lead you to conclude that China’s grain production has increased by fertilizer piles.

Some even attribute the high growth of China’s grain production after 1978 directly to China’s decision in the early 1973s to import large sets of equipment to the West under the “Four Thirds Program” (which got its name from the fact that the total cost of the equipment and technology imported was $4.3 billion), because the large sets of equipment introduced under the program increased China’s fertilizer production.

Looking at the above table in terms of the “fertilizer theory”, you would indeed think that the numbers are quite perfect and that other factors could be considered completely insignificant. However, this perfect fertilizer theory is probably just a coincidence.

If fertilizer is the only decisive factor, then it cannot explain the Soviet phenomenon: the Soviet Union surpassed the U.S. in fertilizer production in the late 1970s, but the Soviet Union’s grain shortage kept growing, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, fertilizer production declined and grain began to be exported instead.

We’ll talk more about how unreliable the “Four Threes Solution” actually is later, but you may notice that after 1984, China’s grain growth slowed rapidly and even declined, while fertilizer grew at a high rate – fertilizer application has been growing at a much faster rate than grain production. The marginal benefit of fertilizer has been gradually decreasing, as the growth rate of grain production has far exceeded the growth rate.

This strange fluctuation after 1984 is completely unexplained by fertilizer production, but it can find some correspondence with the grain policy – in 1985, the state stopped issuing directive purchase plans, and instead used “contract purchase” to In 1985, the state stopped issuing directive purchase plans and instead used “contract purchase” to buy the grain the country needed.

Moreover, the Dongting Lake region, where hybrid rice was first promoted, has not always been a low-yielding region. Some people recalled that it was better than today’s Thai rice and Northeast rice, which is not a baseless delusion.

It was planted on a trial basis for four years in Jiangsu and Zhejiang before it was widely promoted. Statistics from 1962, after the end of the Great Famine, should be more credible, and the yield of Nongken 58 was 370 kilograms per mu (1,000 mu trial). But Nongken 58 never really reached its high-yielding potential throughout the 1960s and 1970s before it retired from the stage of history.

Farmers generally did not like this kind of rice seed pressed down from above. In addition to the unaccustomed taste, the main reasons, when carefully sorted out are actually reasons for laziness: the Nongken series is more laborious when harvesting and threshing, it is a very fertilizer-sensitive rice seed, and as soon as it is lazy the yield drops downward.

These first seven hundred words are simply summarized: incentive system, fertilizer and breeding technology are all important to improve yields, all effective border, but at the time, breeding technology is relatively less important.

When talking about the contribution of hybrid rice to feeding China, it is easy to unconsciously default to: grain = rice, because China is one of the few countries where the proportion of rice in the ration is higher than that of wheat. However, grains are mainly divided into five major categories: corn, rice, wheat, potatoes and beans.

What has changed in China’s grain structure since 1980 is that potatoes and even pumpkins and the like, which had contributed so much to keeping Chinese people from starving to death, have quickly dropped out of the staple food sequence and grains have become the absolute mainstay. Among the grains, the highest yield today is corn, followed by rice and then wheat.

The trend over the last decade is that the production of corn and wheat has gradually increased, and the proportion of rice has relatively decreased, in the proportion of cereals, basically at slightly more than one-third.

Therefore, today’s talk about food can basically only talk about grains.

The statement that hybrid rice has increased yields by 20% and fed 70 million more people can give the illusion that other cereals have not had the same dramatic increase in yields as rice because of advances in breeding technology.

Has there ever been a dramatic increase in yield from breeding technology for corn and wheat?

Of course they have.

Let’s start with corn.

In the early 1950s, China’s corn yield was around 70 kg per mu, and by the mid to late 1960s, it had increased to about 115 kg per mu. Next, starting in the mid-1960s, China went through six stages of technological advances in corn breeding, with corn yields rising steadily per mu (all mu yields in this article refer to single yields).

Today, China’s maize yields are at about 360 kg (2016), five times the 70 kg of the early 1950s.

What about wheat?

Wheat yields have improved just as spectacularly because of improved varieties, see the table below

What is most surprising about wheat’s yield performance is that the United States, the most technologically advanced country in agricultural production, has wheat yields that are, on average, 174 kg per acre, significantly behind China’s. This is a very impressive achievement, even considering that the figures for Chinese agricultural products all need to be discounted.

Cereals are grown in most parts of China by intensive farming with high inputs of labor to increase yields, labor plus land costs, and even though labor is cheaper in China and wheat yields are substantially higher than in the United States, wheat costs are still higher than in the United States. The cost of production of wheat in China is 13,710 yuan per hectare, while the cost of production of wheat in the United States is only 4770 yuan per hectare.

This is really only written to highlight the fact that

The growth in China’s total grain and per capita consumption is the result of a significant increase in yields for all cereals, not just the promotion of hybrid rice. Of the three crops, rice has instead made the smallest contribution in terms of the increase in yields.

Now, it’s time to talk about rice.

Rice is divided into japonica and indica, which are two different subspecies. If you can’t remember the difference between the two, you can simply remember that japonica rice is Japanese rice and indica rice is the unpalatable common southern rice. The former is mainly cultivated in the northeast, while the latter is mainly in the Yangtze River basin and the southeast coastal areas.

Japonica rice and indica rice are two different kinds of rice, and what we often hear about hybrid rice refers to varieties bred with a specific technique called hybrid rice breeding, which mostly belongs to the indica type**. **Also, the highest rice yields in China today are actually the japonica rice grown mainly in the northeast, not the indica rice grown in the rice growing areas south of the Huaihe River.

In other words, the increase in rice yields in China is, again, not all the contribution of hybrid rice.

Although we keep hearing news of high rice yields, in reality, Chinese rice yields have been almost stagnant since the late 1990s, although the amount of fertilizer and pesticides applied per unit of paddy has still been steadily increasing. Instead, it is corn and wheat, which have been under the radar, that have seen steady increases in yields.

There are two reasons for the stagnation of rice yields.

One: Chinese agriculture is extremely inefficient, and it is a long-term trend for labor to move into more efficient industries, so yield increases rely heavily on water, fertilizer and pesticide inputs. Generally speaking, additional inputs are accounted for below 400 kg of rice yields, and to move closer to 500 kg is more than worth the cost.

Second: focus on the single yield of hybrid rice, there has been a taste and quality problems, high-yielding hybrid rice is far less popular than the quality and yield of a more balanced rice species. In addition, hybrid rice yields into a bottleneck when the conventional rice with breeding technology advances, yields have been slowly rising, some varieties and hybrid rice yields have been no significant difference.

Third, the massive use of chemical fertilizers as a substitute for field management input time has led to a steady decline in ground power, which in turn has led to a decline in yields, and the yield-raising potential of the ever-iterating new varieties has largely just made up for this drop.

In addition, although the official propaganda is that hybrid rice yields are generally 20% higher than conventional rice yields, in reality it is only a delicate balance between hybrid and conventional rice when all ideal conditions are met: under the same conditions with less fertilizer application, conventional rice yields are approximately higher than hybrid rice. In the same situation with more fertilizer, hybrid rice yields more.

Unlike corn and wheat, rice has been cultivated in China for thousands of years, and conventional rice varieties from around the world, often selected and bred over centuries, are best able to balance yield and quality while adapting to local climatic conditions. Therefore, conventional rice can also be high-yielding on a large scale, and in years of bad weather, especially with many pests and diseases, conventional rice may instead have an advantage.

Because hybrid rice pursues high yields, it requires high fertilization, dense planting, and large groups, creating an environment that is not easily permeable and highly nutritious. In the past, when the government promoted hybrid rice on a large scale, it was very prone to problems of adaptation in terms of climatic environmental adaptability and disease and disaster resistance. Li Changping, a rural grassroots official who wrote to the prime minister back then, has expressed his disagreement with the forced promotion of hybrid rice in an open letter.

However, official institutional organizations have a natural urge to promote hybrid rice, because ** unlike conventional rice seeds, farmers cannot keep their own seeds and can only buy them from seed sales channels**, which is also different from wheat and corn. There is no variety of crop in China that has received such support in public opinion for hybrid rice.

By the way, to still talk about how many people to feed and food security today is essentially to deliberately ignore the fact that there has been a surplus in food production today for a long time. According to the World Food and Agriculture Organization, global food production in 1996 was sufficient to provide 2,700 calories of food per capita, a figure that greatly exceeds the needs of the average person.

In addition, increased industrialization continues to shrink people’s food needs. An Indian study found that per capita food calorie consumption in India has declined significantly over the past 25 years, with most urban residents below 2,100 calories and most rural residents below 2,400 calories – considered the most basic calorie requirement for manual laborers.

The reason is simple: continued technological advances have led to a reduction in physical exertion in all our daily activities and a reduction in labor time. The time saved by working people is increasingly spent on non-exertional TV watching and gossiping and lazing around, and they are becoming less hungry than before.

Yes, washing machines, bicycles, gas stoves, all kinds of little household motors, and TV sets that make us do like potatoes on the couch and cell phones that keep our heads down and don’t want to look around, all contribute greatly to keeping us away from the threat of hunger. Who knows, maybe Zhang Yiming should be given an award for saving food one day.

Three Steps of Rice Breeding

You should note that the technological progress in breeding wheat and corn has had several different stages, with yield levels increasing step by step like steps. Typically, for corn, the different stages of technological progress were achieved by different research institutions across the country, while rice was the exception, like Yuan Longping made a decisive breakthrough before yields increased dramatically.

In fact, this is an illusion created by media reports. Chinese rice breeding technology, too, has gone through many stages of technological progress, not just the huge and general step of “hybrid rice”. There have been three revolutionary advances in Chinese rice breeding technology to improve rice yields.

In other words, China’s rice yields rose from 150 kg in the 1950s to 450 kg today, after three major steps in breeding technology, not just one leap.

In July 1941, Guangxi Rongxian Chinese Gan Linan returned from Malaysia with a rice seed that locals called “Dwarf Jim” based on its characteristics, and in the summer of 1956, Guangdong Chaoyang native Hong Chunli discovered a natural variant of dwarf rice and worked with Hong Chunying to breed “Dwarf Nante “The two rice varieties, which were developed for Huang Yaoyao, are the first to be developed by the Chinese government. These two rice varieties provided the most important genetic resources for the development of dwarf rice varieties by breeding experts such as Huang Yaoxiang.

The second time is the familiar Yuan Longping-led development of hybrid rice, in fact, strictly speaking, it should be called the three-line method hybrid rice. The third time is the two-series hybrid rice, it is in the National Science and Technology Progress Grand Prize when Yuan Longping’s name was ranked first, but this is more like a tribute to Yuan’s leadership in the organization as well as the jianghu position.

The two-series method of hybridization has had far less impact on Chinese rice than the previous two. This is because by this time there has been a long-term trend in rice cultivation that is very difficult to change: 1. the area sown with japonica rice in the north has been increasing; 2. the area sown with hybrid rice has been slowly declining; and 3. conventional rice varieties are slowly growing. Some believe that eventually each will account for one-third.

Well, even if China’s increased grain production is not just rice, the contribution of hybrid rice is grossly overestimated. But, after all, China is the home of rice, and rice unites China’s pride in agricultural technology. It is even said to be China’s fifth greatest invention. “The technological breakthrough of Yuan Longping, the father of hybrid rice, was to break the dogma of the foreigners, and although it was not tasty, the high yield was not a problem.

The media won’t forget to mention that at the beginning of the reform and opening up, China also taught Yuan’s hybrid rice to the Americans, and American scholars said that China’s hybrid rice research left the rest of the world far behind, even more than 20 years ahead of the United States. If you care, you will also see reports of large rice growing countries such as India and the Philippines, which have a huge gap with China in terms of rice yields.

So, in terms of high yields alone, is Chinese rice at the top of the world? What about the U.S., which stole from China, and their rice yield levels?

Distribution of rice cultivation in the United States

The United States is not a traditional rice-growing country, and not only is the area small – rice is grown on only a few central and western states, with a total area of about 20 million acres – that people think the United States does not grow rice. U.S. rice is rarely used for domestic rations and is exported exclusively for overseas markets, so it is mostly japonica rice, which has a more competitive taste.

Compared with the fine farming in China, the Americans seem to be quite sloppy and lack of patience when planting rice: there is no such thing as rice transplanting, but rather a wild direct sowing method.

But the United States, a country lacking a rice culture, has seen rice yields stabilize at 550 kilograms in recent years, nearly a quarter higher than China’s rice yields. Yes, Chinese rice yields are far from the top in the world, and even the United States is not the highest yielding, but rather Australia, a country also not known for its rice.

Seeing this, you may also think that it is not so important whether Yuan Longping is the “father of hybrid rice” or not, because the actual contribution of hybrid rice to the increase of food production, at least the impression we have formed in the past, is very different. It is not a matter of whether the huge merit is Yuan Longping alone, but this merit is greatly exaggerated.

Even if Yuan Longping is the father of 100 percent hybrid rice, what can he do? China’s contribution of corn and wheat to China’s food production, no less than rice, their breeding achievements, no less than rice – the only difference is that we have never heard of the father of corn or the father of wheat – this is the most worthy of careful consideration, it is never a normal phenomenon.

The father and mother of hybrid rice

When it comes to questioning Yuan Longping’s credentials as the father of hybrid rice, it is the American Henry Beachell who is most like to be brought up.

Henry Beachell, a researcher at the Rockefeller and Ford sponsored International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, produced the miracle rice IR8 in 1966, which doubled rice yields in 10 years, and won the World Food Prize in 1996. I used to like to say that he is the internationally recognized “father of hybrid rice”.

Henry Beachell

The problem is, if you search the English website, you will not find Henry Beachell with the title of “Father of Hybrid Rice”.

Here, I would like to emphasize that arguing about who is the internationally recognized “father of hybrid rice” is purely falling into a hole dug by the Chinese. In fact, as long as you read this carefully, you should realize a problem, according to normal circumstances, whether Yuan Longping, Xie Hua’an or any other participants, is not known to the public, let alone be called the father and mother.

To really understand this point, I spent a few days of this article is not in vain.

Yes, the hybrid rice breeding technology, Yuan Longping to “the father of hybrid rice” become known to young and old superstar, is due to a variety of times of special reasons, only to be shaped into an unprecedented political spectacle.

The miracle of this spectacle is that in 1982, Yuan Longping gradually began to be known as the “father of hybrid rice”, and once he started, there was no way to put a brake on it. Yuan Longping is one of the pioneers of indica hybrid rice research in China, and since he is not the only one, the fact that he is called “father” does not stop others from following suit.

Whether Yuan Longping is considered the “father of hybrid rice”, peers privately have different views, or even disagree, but no one dares to compete with Yuan Longping for this title, the rest can only be called the “mother of hybrid rice”. Xie Hua’an and Yan Long’an, who have contributed greatly to the three-series hybrid rice, have become the “mother of hybrid rice”. It is a good thing that the two mothers are not in trouble.

Photo: Xie Hua’an

Photo: Yan Long’an

Yuan Longping was honored as the “father” of the three-series hybrid rice, and Shi Mingsong made the greatest contribution to the two-series hybrid rice, so he was naturally qualified for the honor. Since people did not want him to be represented by Yuan Longping, and his two-series method and three-series method were considered a different lineage, he was honored as “subfather”.

Photo: Shi Mingsong

Zhou Kaida, who is an academician of the same Academy of Engineering as Yuan Longping, has the same generation and status as Yuan Longping. Zhou independently cultivated the Ok and D series of sterile lines and their hybrid rice, and there was almost no intersection with Yuan Longping’s mountain, with the full support of the Sichuan provincial government, his developed rice seeds almost dominated the southwest region, so he was cut off to be the “father of southwest hybrid rice “.

Photo: Academician Zhou Kaida

Academician Zhou Kaida in the southwest cracked the soil called father, the vast black land of course also need a father, and so many mothers and fathers are from the indica rice production area, the northern japonica rice area can not be a father. Xu Yirong has been fighting for japonica rice in the black land for his whole life, and it is expected that the honor goes to Xu Yirong, but there is no consensus on whether it is “the father of cold rice” or “the father of northern rice”.

Rice breeding circles called father and mother of the wind has now become customary, three systems, two systems, and then the concept of super rice, so the first to put forward this concept of Yang Shouren was also known as “China’s father of super rice”.

Photo: Academician Yang Shouren

Recently, some people called Academician Chen Wenfu “the father of super rice”, so that there are three fathers in the northeast region at once, which obviously has the momentum of taking the lead. However, the term “father of Chinese super rice” used by Yang Shouren is obviously more rigorous, because the concept of super rice was first proposed by the Japanese.

If Yuan Longping is honored as the first “father”, it seems that the ancient ritual should be traced back upward, then Huang Yaoxiang should be posthumously named as the “father of dwarf rice”, if upward tracing can also take into account the side branches, then Hong Chunying and Hong Chunli should not be omitted, or can be added in front of The prefix “Guangdong” or “Chaozhou” could have been added before them.

Photo: Academician Huang Yaoxiang, an expert in dwarf rice breeding

Although Henry Beachell is not the father of international hybrid rice, as mentioned earlier, he is an honorary father or a “righteous father” for his outstanding contribution to Chinese rice breeding or that of the International Rice Research Institute of the Philippines, which he works for, as a sign of not forgetting his benefactors.

When the hybrid rice research, the Philippines International Rice Institute provided China with a large number of parents of the recovery line, although the media rarely mention this matter, but this history are clearly recorded in the genes of rice seeds, the following chart is the largest area of hybrid rice promotion of the genealogy of the rice species Shanyou 63, those headed by IR, are the Philippines International Rice Institute cultivated rice seeds.

Most of the domestic hybrid rice parents in the 1970s were taken directly from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and without the excellent rice genetic resources they provided, hybrid rice would not have had high and stable yields. And, to this day, the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines has been hosting and training Chinese students.

If the trend of “fatherhood” spreads from rice breeding to maize and wheat, many of the candidates eligible for fatherhood may be able to claim the gold of “fatherhood” – purely in terms of technical and theoretical breakthroughs or creation. The father of wheat breeding is the founder of wheat breeding.

The founders of wheat breeding include Jin Shanbao, Shen Zonghan, Shen Shouquan, Dai Songen, etc. The founder of distant hybridization, which contributed greatly to wheat yields, is recognized as Li Zhenying. Even if we consider that the credit of hybrid rice goes to Yuan Longping, Li’s contribution is not inferior to Yuan’s. In 1981, Yuan was awarded the first National Supreme Award for Science and Technology, and Li was awarded the same award in 2006.

(Mentioned Li Zhenying, some people say that Li’s wheat distant hybridization results, mainly from the British returned to Dr. Shi Shenghan, because Shi came from a bad background, after the work of Li Zhenying transferred to Shi. (This statement can not be verified, to prepare a frame).

Wheat breeding expert Li Zhensheng

Corn, can be called the same father with Yuan Longping, at least Li Jingxiong, Dai Jingrui and other people. Also, if you pay attention to that table of iterative progress in maize breeding made earlier, you should find that nearly half of the important technical achievements in maize breeding in China came from Henan. This is probably the best explanation for Mr. Wu Shaoyu being the founder of Chinese maize breeding.

Wu Shaoyu

Wu Shaoyu was a doctor who stayed in the United States in the 1930s and taught at Henan Agricultural University for a long time. Wu’s status in the academic circle was not comparable to that of Li Zhensheng and Yuan Longping, but Wu was interrupted several times in his research and teaching due to political reasons. Wu’s experience is really a necessity of character. When translating Senko Li’s book “Heredity and its Variation” in his early years, Wu openly claimed in the preface of the translation, “The translator is slightly involved in genetic science, and does not dare to agree with what Academician Senko Li holds, as he knows very little ……”

The good thing is that the hobby of calling father is only popular in rice circles. Because Yuan Longping is unique.

Yuan Longping’s uniqueness is not a theoretical breakthrough or creation, nor is it a superior research ability in three-series hybrid research – the most important links have their own contributors: the first sterile and maintenance line was bred by Yan Longan, the first recovery line was discovered by Zhang Xiancheng, and the first to propose the doctrine of kinship to guide three-series matching was Pei Xinshu ……

Please think about it, we hear the word hybrid rice, is not because of Yuan Longping this person? If not this person, who would like to remember how much it has increased production and how many people it has fed? Has anyone ever heard of any variety of wheat, corn, or soybeans other than the genetically modified corn that caused the panic? Not to mention the specific researchers associated with specific varieties.

Without Yuan Longping as a superstar, people would not be able to figure out what roles different people played and what specific contributions were made in hybrid rice breeding, and who would care about the size of the contributions of Xie Hua’an, Yan Long’an, and Huang Yaoxiang for no reason?

The uniqueness of Yuan Longping lies in the fact that after the end of the Cultural Revolution, he was the only one of the agricultural breeding experts to enter the official sequence of scientists’ propaganda. Although far from being ranked alongside the most dazzling scientists of the time, time has passed, and while Chen Jingrun and Hua Luogeng lost their propaganda novelty and faded out of public memory long ago, Yuan Longping’s fervor in mass communication not only remained unabated, but kept rising.

Statistics from: Wang Chunxiao, “A Study of Yuan Longping’s Media Image in the Discourse Perspective

A researcher, whose popularity reaches all people, can be completely unknown to today’s young people who were stars thirty years ago, but who does not know Yuan Longping? Not to mention in China, if we look at the whole world, we can’t find such an example. It is not an exaggeration to say that Yuan Longping is the unique present-day “scientist god”.

All this is unrepeatable.

The perfect “scientist god”

As a living “scientist god,” Yuan presents an image to the public that perfectly matches the image of a great scientist in the hearts of the Chinese people. Or rather, almost all of the basic elements that Chinese people have in mind to constitute a “scientist god” can be found in Yuan Longping.

The public’s favorable opinion of Yuan Longping today is really not much because of how many more people he has fed, and in the last decade, the phrase “how many more people he has fed” has failed, at least with young people. The public’s favorable opinion of Yuan Longping is largely the success of the public image.

Remember the scientist Li Xiaowen, who suddenly burst onto the internet two years ago?

When you see Li Xiaowen’s unadorned photo, you will be able to forward it to the netizens, but how many of them can accurately repeat the words “optical remote sensing” and “thermal infrared remote sensing” after reading it? People simply can’t figure out what he is doing, and even more so his status in the industry – it doesn’t really matter, anyway, it doesn’t stop people from thinking that Li Xiaowen is a real master, a god.

The reason is simple, Li Xiaowen’s identity and his dress has a strong image contrast, in mass communication, image contrast naturally easy to trigger the spread – contrast is not always positive, such as Zhu Jun and Zhao Zhong detail teacher, their image is virtuous, naturally should avoid certain bad strong contrast.

Yuan Longping’s appearance is typical of a hard-working and capable southern farmer, but he can soar in English and play the violin. This mixed combination of farmer and intellectual in him is not only extremely rare, but also extremely contrasting, and you can hardly find a second person like him.

The company’s main business is to provide a wide range of products and services to the public.

The image of Yuan Longping is so perfect that his system’s image parameters, even if modified in any way, will lose points.

For example, if his skin P white some, he does not look like a ready to go to the farm experts; fat some, will be greasy middle-aged – the image of Yuan Longping colleagues is very loss; stay a white back and then wear a pair of glasses, although the foreign point, but less people; if he dresses foreign point, no shadow of the saint; but if a face solemn, it is less mortal relatable ……

Even you can imagine what would be the picture if Yuan Longping’s violin was changed into an erhu? A scientist who likes to saw the erhu is definitely a minus, as is a scientist who likes to plate walnuts and strings.

In short, the Chinese people’s perfect scientist God, is thin fame and not the pursuit of material life, is a look at the heart of the people, friendly and not high above, is the spirit of sacrifice but not too far from the world, is able to play with the people and can talk and laugh with Westerners ……

If you add the above requirements together, if you can just meet these expectations at the same time, then such a scientist god should look like Yuan Longping.

Personally, I think the closest Yuan Longping ever came to being a god was actually the 50th anniversary of Yuan’s February 1966 publication, “Male Infertility in Rice”.

If we look at the focus of propaganda in different periods, the most valuable part of the article is the first and last sentences. The first sentence is “Rice has the phenomenon of heterozygous dominance, especially indica-japonica hybrids are more prominent”, and the last sentence is “Through further selection and breeding, male sterile lines, maintenance lines and recovery can be obtained from them and used as materials for breeding for heterozygous dominance in rice”.

The first sentence is often used to emphasize that this is a clear statement of Yuan Longping’s breaking of the Western thesis that “self-pollinated crops such as rice do not have hybrid advantage” or a forbidden area of research, highlighting the significance of Yuan’s invention; the last sentence indicates that the idea of three-line hybrids was first proposed by Yuan Longping, which proves his position in this invention.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the paper, a special issue was published. The arrangement of two articles in this special issue is worth mentioning, one is “50 Years of Hybrid Rice Research” by Zhu, UK, and the other is “Research on the Discovery and Utilization of Cytoplasmic Male Sterility of Red Lotus Type and Prospects” by Zhu, UK.

Zhu Britain was put into hybrid rice research a little later than Yuan Longping and was a leading figure in hybrid rice research in Hubei. The difference in status between Zhu UK and Yuan Longping is somehow a testament to the special favor that fate has shown Yuan Longping.

The turnaround in China’s hybrid rice research began in 1970 when Yuan Longping’s team discovered male sterile wild rice in Hainan, called “wild defeat”, which was distributed to more than 30 research units across the country, and in 1973 bred a three-line hybrid rice, most of China’s hybrid rice, are “wild defeat ” line.

Most of the fathers and mothers of the aforementioned hybrid rice have gained their journeyman status from the research of the “wild defeat” line. In the heroic narrative history of hybrid rice in China, wild defeat is found to be a bit like Jinggang Mountain to the Chinese Revolution.

However, Zhu proved that there was another possibility: in 1972, Zhu discovered the male sterile wild rice “red lotus” in Hainan, and in 1974, he developed a red lotus-type cytoplasmic male sterile rice variety. That is to say, if there was no “wild defeat” line back then, because there was “red lotus”, it did not affect the invention of hybrid rice technology.

Zhu, England

However, in 1974, when the National Hybrid Rice Collaboration was underway, Yuan Longping was the head of the National Collaboration Team and Zhu was the head of the Hubei Collaboration Team, so of course everyone went to work on the “Wild Defeat” line discovered by Yuan’s team, and Zhu’s “Red Lotus” line was left out. The “Red Lotus” line of Zhu’s team was left behind.

The heroic narrative history of hybrid rice in China is basically a narrative history centered on the “wild defeat” line. Revolutionary History.

Great is Long Ping.

The Forgotten Leader

However, Yuan Longping did not first appear in the media in the perfect image he has today.

Yuan Longping receiving the Grand Prize from Fang Yi

The landmark event that brought Yuan Longping to the stage of history was in June 1981, when the hybrid rice declared by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Hunan Academy of Agricultural Sciences won the Grand Invention Award from the Science and Technology Commission, placing Yuan at the top of a list of more than 20 people who had made outstanding contributions.

In addition to a certificate of award, they also received 100,000 bonus, after each unit changed hands to divide a little, the rest was awarded to individuals. Yuan Longping, who ranked first, got 5,000 yuan, and Yan Longan, who ranked second, got 4,600 yuan …… The distribution of this bonus reflected both the egalitarianism of the time and the perception of the size of each person’s contribution in hybrid rice at that time.

Yuan Longping’s status at the time stemmed in considerable part from his contribution as the political coordinator of scientific and technological research.

According to the standard statement, after Yuan’s paper was published in 1966, it attracted the attention of the State Science Committee, which set up the “Rice Male Sterility Research Group” consisting of Yuan Longping, Yin Huaqi, and Li Bihu in June 1967, and received 600 yuan in research funding… …

What was the position of Yuan’s team in Chinese rice breeding at that time? This description is very vague.

The heroic narrative contains much background information that is unusually vague. For example, in Yuan’s speech in 2001, there are “After 1970, we received more support” and “In the winter of 1975, the leading comrades of the State Council made the decision to rapidly expand the trial breeding and promote it in large quantities “, such vague and general statements in the main language are obviously missing something.

The fact is that Hua Guofeng, who later became a wise leader, knew Yuan Longping before and after the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, and in June 1970, at an exchange of experience in agricultural science and technology in Hunan Province, Hua named Yuan to speak, and in 1971, Hua was transferred to the central government, and the “leading comrade of the State Council” who decided to promote hybrid rice in the winter of 1975 was none other than The “leading comrade of the State Council” who decided to promote hybrid rice in winter 1975 was none other than Hua Guofeng himself.

It is worthwhile to expand a little on the promotion of “Comrade Leader of the State Council”.

Yuan Longping bred hybrid rice in 1973, and by 1975 had spread the trial to 5,000 mu. At the end of that year, Yuan went to Beijing to report to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, but returned disappointed. Chen Hongxin, vice president of Hunan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, was impatient and went to Beijing again in December to try to convince his direct supervisor to vigorously promote hybrid rice seeds, but was not received.

Chen Hongxin immediately wrote to his old superior, Hua Guofeng, offering a face-to-face meeting. After seeing the letter from his old ministry, Hua immediately arranged for a group of people, including the Vice Premier and the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, to participate in a briefing on hybrid rice. After listening for two hours, Hua Guofeng immediately decided to take out 1.5 million yuan for promotion, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry immediately held a meeting in Guangzhou to promote hybrid rice in 13 southern provinces.

The first generation of rice breeding experts Huang Yaoxiang cultivated several famous varieties, from the peak of rice breeding to broadcast area, are no less than 12 years, while the varieties cultivated by Yuan only began to promote in 1976, and reached the maximum area in 1978. From Yuan Longping onwards, the time from breeding to the peak area of famous rice varieties were shortened to 4-6 years.

Yuan Longping later mentioned many times that Chen Hongxin, the vice president of Hunan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, was instrumental in the hybrid rice, and Chen himself believed that his greatest achievement in life was his successful meeting with Hua Guofeng.

The special relationship between Hua Guofeng and Yuan Longping is a piece of hidden history. Sigrid Schmalzer of the University of Massachusetts History Department has studied the changing image of Yuan in Chinese media coverage in her book “Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Agriculture in Socialist China”.

Yuan’s research on hybrid rice was part of a “massive scientific experimentation movement in hybrid breeding” across China at the time, which had already made great strides in corn and sorghum. The early success of hybrid rice was greatly aided by mass movement-style experiments that required short-term training of large numbers of farmers in seed production.

Hybrid rice is one of the few exciting examples of mass science in Hunan agriculture, where Hua Guofeng ran Hunan and was in charge of national agriculture before he became Chairman Mao’s successor. Hunan and Yuan Longping’s position in hybrid rice is inextricably linked to Hua’s special position.

In September 1972, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry held the Hybrid Rice Research Collaboration Conference in Changsha, and the home field advantage enabled Yuan to begin to become a leader. In 1974, research units from 13 provinces and regions across the country were organized for hybrid rice PR, with Yuan as the head of the national collaboration group.

Hua Guofeng, who became the new leader in 1976, faced a power challenge from his old comrades, especially as the latter waved the banner of respect for science and technology, well in line with the call of the times. Emphasizing and highlighting the achievements of hybrid rice helped Huaguofeng tremendously in raising his image. It was in this context that hybrid rice was politically picked.

However, the Hua Guofeng era adhered to the mass line and collectivism, and it tended to emphasize the wisdom of the masses and promote hybrid rice, with the theme remaining that great socialist collaboration is good and mass movements are powerful. before 1981, Yuan Longping’s name was hardly noticed.

In fact, hybrid rice should ideally be the result of a mass movement waged by a leader, not the success of some scientist, for it to be in the leader’s best interest.

The wise leader’s decisive contribution to the success of hybrid rice that year was clearly stated in the article “How Hybrid Rice Was Successfully Cultivated” published by Yuan Longping in the People’s Daily in December 1976: “Encouraging scientific and technical personnel to carry out research on three-line rice on the masses has developed from the experiments of a few experts to a new stage of a thousand armies”.

At that time, the official presentation of the scientific significance of this achievement was also characterized by the language of the era, such as the powerful rebuttal of the “foreign slave philosophy” that “even Western countries have not succeeded in their research for many years, so we cannot succeed either”, and the breakthrough of the American experts For example, it was a strong rebuttal to the “foreign slave philosophy” that “Western countries had not succeeded in their research for many years and we could not succeed either”, and it broke through the forbidden zone of “self-pollinated crops (such as rice and wheat) do not degenerate in self-crossing and have no advantage in crosses” in the book “Principles of Genetics” by Sinnott and Dunn.

However, by the hybrid rice has been propagating this theory for decades, Schmalzer deliberately searched the Chinese scientific journals, she found that there is no evidence that this is only a family of authoritative theory of the United States, in China has been cited, in addition, the mid-1960s, hybrid sorghum, a self-pollinated crop has been widely promoted.

Schmalzer found that an early article co-authored by Yuan and Li Bihu and Yin Huaqi claimed that their exploration of the “intrinsic causes” of male sterility in rice was inspired by Chairman Mao’s Theory of Contradiction, which helped him to overcome the misconceptions of foreign geneticists. They developed a new variety of rice, which they called “revolutionary rice.

Sigrid Schmalzer

During President Hua’s time, the tone of hybrid rice propaganda remained largely unchanged, except that after the beginning of the rejection and rethinking of the Cultural Revolution, elements such as the interference of the rebels were added to the hybrid rice narrative in order to establish a narrative framework of dichotomy between the “bad guys” (the Gang of Four) and the heroes.

In June 1981, Yuan Longping and Hua Guofeng both had a turning point in their fortunes. Hua Guofeng quit the stage of power, and hybrid rice, originally regarded as a product of the collective wisdom of the masses, in the new era of emphasis on the contribution of individual scientists, the need for a scientist to claim – so, 20 days before the resignation of Hua Guofeng, Yuan Longping and more than 20 other people won the Grand Prize for scientific and technological inventions, from then on to the forefront of history.

Exit the stage of Hua Guofeng, from then on into the mouth of the deceased “province”, “the State Council leading comrades.

But, after all, Yuan Longping is Yuan Longping.

On June 9, 2006, Beijing business trip, Yuan Longping deliberately to Huaguofeng home visit, it is said that the two old friends clasped each other’s hands for half an hour. After this meeting, Yuan Longping finally began to say publicly that without the support of Comrade Hua Guofeng, it would have been very difficult to promote hybrid rice on a large scale.

When he said goodbye, Hua Guofeng, who had practiced calligraphy at home for decades, gave Yuan Longping a pair of words: Comrade Longping: Your innovation. It was placed prominently in Yuan Longping’s office.

The evolutionary history of the scientist god

In line with the needs of the times, the story has a whole new version: the resistance of the rebels was reinforced, and Yuan Longping had questioned Chairman Mao’s eight-character constitution – which almost brought him bad luck. And the people, who had been the protagonists of scientific research, now became the motivation that inspired Yuan’s research: I can’t forget the starving people.

Before the end of the Cultural Revolution, there were other fathers of hybrid rice who were much more dazzling than Yuan Longping, such as Li Zhingsheng, whose name not only appeared frequently in official reports, but even in special documentaries. He became an individual hero in that era of collectivism because he was a big old grandfather.

Li Zhingsheng invented hybrid corn rice, not by looking for naturally male sterile plants, but by using hot water to kill the stamens and de-male them. In those days when the masses, especially the illiterate masses, were encouraged to invent and innovate, this appalling native method of getting a new variety was promoted far more successfully than Yuan Longping’s before Hua Guofeng stepped in to help him.

Hybrid rice was one of the few success stories of the 1970s mass line to engage in scientific research, and some of the anti-intellectualism of the Mao era has a spiritual legacy that still profoundly affects the Chinese today. For example, the belief that earthquakes can be predicted and that many folk scientists successfully predicted the Wenchuan earthquake but were concealed by bureaucrats is the reason why China was engaged in mass earthquake prevention and testing (with the unreliable contribution of Li Siguang), and the universal acceptance of the science of cats and dogs barking, frogs jumping around and thunder and lightning as precursors to earthquakes. After the sixties and seventies, this is unforgettable. This interesting topic will be discussed separately sometime.

In the new version of the hybrid rice story, the focus of intensive propaganda became the bold subversion and breakthrough of the theory of Western scientific authority, which was almost an essential common element in the legendary stories glorifying scientists at that time – Li Siguang, Chen Jingrun and Hua Luogeng in reportage literature, all branded with a strong nationalist narrative.

The rise of reportage literature reveals a different feature than before; whether a scientific hero is famous or not is no longer a function of his academic status and his standing in the official eyes, but most likely the success of the literary coverage itself. Xu Chi’s “Goldbach’s Conjecture” and “The Light of Geology” were the most influential reports of the time, making Li Siguang and Chen Jingrun the idols of millions of people.

Perhaps it was Yuan’s lack of moving material, such as special ordeals – after all, Yuan did not experience the standard treatment of persecuted intellectuals, such as criticism, parade, cattle shed, wife and children, or simply that Yuan did not meet a good reportage writer, in the early 1980s, Yuan did not become a household name In the early 1980s, Yuan Longping did not become a household name as a scientific hero, the public awareness will not be high Qin official, the forestry scientist had moved a generation because of Huang Zongying’s “Big Goose Love”.

However, in retrospect, this was a blessing because Yuan was not fixed to be portrayed as the scientist that people thought he was at the time. For example, Chen Jingrun was a typical Asperger’s nerd who lacked basic self-care skills, had manuscript papers stacked three feet thick on the floor, and often bumped into telephone poles when walking.

At that time, the Chinese, who were aesthetically tired of the revolution, appreciated tastes that once went off the rails: Chen Jingrun received several sacks of love letters, all offering to take care of him for the rest of his life, helping him wash and cook, brush his teeth and have children. On campus, smart students who saw their teachers walking by would immediately be possessed by Chen Jingrun, read their books with their heads down, and then crash on a telephone pole.

However, Yuan Longping soon came to the fore.

Hybrid rice break through the theoretical confines of Western authorities, that paragraph, no matter how easy to understand the text is written, the vast majority of people can not repeat, it just shows that a person is indeed very bull, but, more than feed tens of millions of people, every Chinese people can hear, especially, in the heart of the Chinese people who just eat, compare the importance of scientists, we are very willing to convert their contribution to how many people can be fed.

The saying that hybrid rice feeds tens of millions more Chinese people is not a new idea that came to light, it is a gradual evolution from the high yield of hybrid rice. In the early days of reform and opening up, no individual dared to share in the glory of dividing the land into households because it was the first achievement that justified reform and opening up. It was only when the achievements of reform and opening up were so numerous that they simply did not care much about food that it was the turn of hybrid rice’s publicity opportunity.

However, if all people do not care much about food production, the mention of how many more people can be fed by hybrid rice will not be cared about, and Yuan Longping’s greatness will be ignored. At this time, a big idiot jumped out in time, this person is called Lester Brown, in 1994, Brown wrote a report called “Who will feed China”. This American version of the Currency Wars immediately blew up all over China.

Lester Brown, an American expert on environmental issues and agriculture

All the rebuttals by Chinese experts and scholars as well as government officials to Brown were not as good as the rebuttals by Yuan Longping, who calculated with his fingers how many acres of hybrid rice could be spread to solve the problem of how many people would eat, which was especially in line with the Chinese people’s understanding of the matter. The book, Who Will Feed China, unexpectedly turned out to be the best propaganda poster for Yuan Longping.

It was with Lester Brown as a fool that the Chinese people suddenly woke up to the fact that we had a real hero like Yuan Longping. At the end of the year, when the leaders of the State Science Committee reported to Premier Li Peng, the Premier asked about Yuan Longping with concern: Why wasn’t Yuan from Hunan named a member of the Academy of Sciences?

To use an inappropriate analogy, the Global Times particularly likes to reprint articles from the Washington Times, a newspaper that is particularly likely to get the Chinese people fired up, but the Washington Times, a newspaper whose name seems particularly mainstream in the United States, was actually founded in 1982 by Korean-American religious leader Moon distinct. Lester Brown’s “Who Will Feed China” is Yuan Longping’s Washington Times.

Yuan Longping, who appeared in the public eye at this time, had long since left the standard Chinese scientist far in the deep in terms of image, and the image he presented to the public, at a glance, was not far from the world’s top great scientists in realm.

Yes, Yuan Longping showed his pursuit and love of realm very early on.

Later, Yuan Longping’s reminiscences about his research on hybrid rice in the 1970s provided even richer inspiration. For example, Yuan’s wife asked, “Aren’t you afraid of failure and being held in a big hat? At the time, Yuan replied, “There is no selfishness at the bottom of my heart.

However, it was soon discovered that selflessness is not the supreme state of a great scientist.

Through the education of various digest newspapers and magazines, the Chinese people gradually learned that Einstein, a great scientist, was not only a monster who was miserable all day long, but also a fun-loving person who could stick his tongue out mischievously and loved to play the violin. The Chinese people’s awareness of the style of the great scientists has surpassed another Himalayan mountain.

Yuan inadvertently tapped into the fact that he also had a love for the violin – perhaps a keen journalist’s discovery – and in any case, Yuan increasingly began to saw the violin. I remember that initially some reporters who were not clear-minded enough asked foolishly how the violin was and whether it had Einstein’s influence, and there was a hint of sincere shyness, humility and evasiveness in Yuan’s answer at the time.

Yuan’s violin, after countless iterations of evolution, finally reached the highest level in 2002 in a biography about Yuan, and has thrown Einstein out by several lengths.

Einstein’s violin is a symbol of coming from an educated family and having artistic cultivation, while Yuan’s violin is a call to nature, to life, to the lonely fate of mankind, to his inner mission, a kind of confession of no one in the four seas to the sunset, between the heaven and earth of the cosmic flood.

One day in 1973, Yuan took out his beloved violin after a hard day’s work. The venue where he played was not a brightly lit stage, but an endless golden rice field, with his pants pulled up and both legs covered in mud, just immersing himself in Schumann’s “Fantasia” all by himself.

Reporters still like to have Yuan standing in the rice fields sawing violins

I have not studied the TV series “Yuan Longping”, if this TV series, actually did not present that evening in 1973, this glorious and great moment in human history, in full in front of the audience, so that they could not breathe, I think, the writer and the director should be immediately killed with slippers.

The jungle of hybrid rice

Today, Chinese netizens are hardly immune to Yuan Longping’s charms.

The deliberate choice of a special place in terms of altitude, temperature and humidity to set a record for the sake of setting a record, this kind of pennantism in the 1950s and 1960s is already bizarre enough.

Pay close attention to the news, in China, breeding experts personally, non-stop by piles of money to create high yield records, all hybrid rice, and other food crops and conventional rice species, almost can not see this strange race. The reason is perhaps simple, conventional rice and hybrid wheat and the like, farmers can breed their own seeds, do seed development research, a good seeds themselves can only be sold once. Hybrid rice is different, you have to buy it from me every time.

However, China’s system is not conducive to incentivizing breeding research. While the main body of breeding research in the United States is corporate and highly concentrated in the market, the main force in China undertaking research tasks is the national research institutes, and if you develop a hybrid rice seed that is particularly popular with farmers, you do not get enough reward from the feedback of the market.

So, Longping Hi-Tech went public in 2000, and it marked the end of the era of farmers getting hybrid rice seeds at low prices, and the relationship between Yuan Longping and Chinese farmers has long since ceased to be that of farmers and the people’s scientists who help farmers increase their yields, when the Hunan Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the National Hybrid Rice Center, actually became the research base of even this listed company. Today, Longping Hi-Tech has become the largest company in China’s hybrid rice seed market.

Seeing the listing of Luping Hi-Tech, the Sichuan side, because it has the gold medal of the father of southwest hybrid rice, Zhou Kaida, and the basic plate of the hybrid rice seed market in the southwest, so it also began to plan the packaging of the listed company in the name of Zhou Kaida, but has not yet knocked on the door of the capital market, Kaida seed industry aborted due to the death of academician Zhou.

The Chinese seed market is characterized by a lack of separation between government and enterprises, segmentation, monopoly and competition, a highly fragmented market, and a very low industrial scale. The hybrid rice seed market, on the other hand, has a high level of concentration and industry scale, but this is not the result of competition, as the seed companies occupy mostly local markets, and there is a serious overcapacity of rice seeds due to the lack of attractiveness of hybrid rice.

The market has proven that no matter how high the yield of your high-yield test field is, hybrid rice or super rice, there is no way out or potential. All it can affect is the national food policy and the investment in research funding.

The only technical breakthrough in rice breeding that can be counted on is transgenic technology, and pest-resistant transgenic technology is already very mature and can significantly save farmers’ expenses. However, Yuan has been opposing the application of GM technology on vague grounds. Presumably it would have a direct impact on the market for his seed empire.

To be honest, on this point, Yuan is really sorry to the people who treat him like a god.

You can consider this statement of mine a bias: rice is a better food for the poor because it is half the price of wheat when purchased for the same number of calories. And the near-paranoid pursuit of rice yield records is the paranoia of the poor about the fear of famine.

However, biologically speaking, the potential available for rice to be exploited as a food crop dictates that it is not worth the cost of such a large investment. There is a world of difference between rice and wheat in terms of photosynthetic efficiency and crops like corn and sorghum. Because of the differences in the photosynthesis process, rice and wheat are known as carbon three plants, while corn, sorghum and others are known as carbon four plants.

Perhaps a simple example of this difference is a visual comparison: corn, sorghum, sugar cane is actually the same as wheat and rice are “grass”, but because of their very high photosynthetic efficiency, so that they are so tall that they are not generally considered grass.

There is no doubt that corn, a godsend, will become the most basic brick and mortar of the human food industry, and it will have a profound impact on the entire landscape and pattern of agriculture. For China to spend a lot of energy on a discipline like rice, which has limited potential and which no one else wants to play with, is the equivalent of people perfecting the automobile and China perfecting the horse and buggy.

When I visited American agriculture in 2014, I visited professional American GM corn farmers and was extremely shocked that American corn farming could be so lazy: farmers grow corn and are simplified to the point where it is almost exclusively sown and harvested. Not only are there no field management operations such as weeding and pest control, but even basic aspects such as deep tilling and plowing are omitted – this can no longer be called farming, because there is no farming ……

They are naturally very welcoming of GM crops, and farmers are the biggest supporters of GM technology. I asked if you ever worry that using GM seeds will increase dependence on big companies, and the owner of that family replied: they make us more money, what’s wrong with that ……

Regarding GM, the Western leftists oppose GM mainly because they oppose capitalist big business, not because there is anything wrong with GM technology itself. The more concentrated the market, the more dependent farmers are on big business, which of course they can’t see, and the big business has invested heavily in GM R&D, which of course they want to make trouble for them.

In some degree of practical effect, left-wingers are accomplices to big business in eliminating weak competitors in the market. Yes, they have succeeded in pushing up the threshold for declaring GM products and creating problems for big business, but small and medium-sized enterprises and research institutions in universities engaged in GM research cannot afford the high cost of declaring and approving them, and eventually have to give up this market to big business.

By the way, although it was mentioned earlier that Chinese corn yields are increasing. But compared to the US, which has adopted GM technology, it is nothing. China’s corn yields are about 400 kg, while the U.S. corn yields are about 800 kg, and in 2017, the U.S. corn high-yield competition set a record yield of 2,269 kg.

The huge difference between rice and corn in terms of potential may have been realized by Yuan Longping long ago. However, his line of work is rice, so Yuan Dingyang, his son’s successor, found a peculiar direction to work in: through transgenic technology, to completely transform rice into a carbon-four plant like corn.

Oh, my God.