Who Owns Rice?
The collection in the International Rice Germplasm
Center is not the Institute's sole property: it belongs
to the world. International cooperation in collecting,
preserving, and using plant genetic resources with-
out limitations must continue. Controversies that
involve intellectual property rights and political sys-
tems need to be resolved.
KLAUS LAMPE, director general, International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI), 1991
The drive from Saigon to Can Tho, a sprawling concrete city in the heart of the swampy Mekong Delta, used to take six bonejarring hours of bumpy, horn-honking, heart-stopping, swerving, reckless driving in the searing heat. That does not include time spent waiting in sweltering traffic behind an assortment of fume-spewing vehicles to take two ferry rides across wide muddy tributaries of the Mekong River. That's what it was like in the early 1990s. Since then the road has been improved and part of the river has been bridged. What hasn't changed is the ceaseless rising and falling of the waters, the planting and harvesting of rice, and the daily rituals of the 20 million people who live here.
During rice harvest, Vietnam's roads are paved in gold. Two or three times a year, the nation's wealth is put out to dry on every