Help Prevent Food Shortages with your PC

Dennis Faas's picture

With the number of jobs in North America spiraling and the price of gas skyrocketing, consumers were recently given more bad news when it was announced that droughts in Asia would eventually lead to a universal increase in the cost of rice. So what can we Westerners do to help? Log onto a computer and join the crusade!

While not a crucial commodity here in North America, rice has become a staple food for more than half of the global population. In Asia alone, more than 2 billion people receive up to 70% of their dietary energy from rice. In response to the shortage, some national governments have started to restrict the export of rice, while retailers all over the world have begun rationing their sales due to fears of insufficient global supplies. (Source:

Researchers at the University of Washington are putting together a genomics project to be launched on the World Community Grid in the online search for the most high-yielding, disease-resistant type of rice for future cultivation.

The World Community Grid was developed in 2004 to give humanitarian organizations access to massive computing resources. The grid uses the idle time of computers around the world to power, research and analyze genomes and diseases like cancer, HIV and muscular dystrophy. The research team in Washington now hopes to use the grid to combat the rice shortage before it turns into an even bigger global crisis. (Source:

Once you join the World Community Grid, a small piece of software is installed onto your PC which taps your unused computing cycle and combines it with others around the world to create a virtual "supercomputer". The total computing power of the World Community Grid makes it the third-largest supercomputer in the world.

The rice project is getting significant attention from a host of high-profile corporations, including IBM (which has donated hardware, software and even staff members to help with the crusade).

The World Community Grid is expected to speed along the research time of 30,000 to 60,000 protein structures and will hopefully reveal the top selection of which rice to yield. Still, even if a "super-hybrid" rice variety is discovered, it must be physically developed and cultivated in greenhouses, not on a computer screen. (Source:

While the World Community Organization can offer the best type of rice to feed the greatest number of people, physically planting and cultivating the lost crops will prove to be an entirely different challenge altogether.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet