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  • In developing countries alone,  

  • more than 3.5 billion people depend on rice for  more than 20 per cent of their calories.  

  • But traditional rice farming uses up to a third  of the world's freshwater supplies and produces  

  • harmful greenhouse gasesas much as the entire  aviation industry before the pandemic.  

  • A key problem is methane productiondue to the custom of keeping fields  

  • flooded during the growing season. The gas is a significant contributor to  

  • global warming, with rice cultivation the second  biggest agricultural source after livestock.  

  • Researchers are currently working to  generate new, high-yield varieties that  

  • can be seeded directly into dry ground. A new farming method for paddy fields could  

  • also reduce both water use and  greenhouse gas emissions.  

  • It alternates wetting and drying, rather  than always keeping paddies flooded.  

  • Far less methane is produced when  fields are drained and organic matter  

  • isn't left to rot under water. Farmers are also being encouraged  

  • in the use of practices such as laser land  levelling, which produces flatter paddies.  

  • These in turn allow farmers to reduce their  use of both water and fertiliser.  

  • Aid group the Sustainable Rice Platformwhich promotes the wetting and drying method,  

  • started in 2015 and has grown to 500,000  farmers across 21 countries today.  

  • It says pilot projects have on average  reduced water use by 20 per cent,  

  • and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. But these projects cover less than one percent  

  • of rice production worldwide and persuading  significant numbers of farmers and governments  

  • to commit to environmental and cost  efficiencies will take time.

  • Rice is not internationally traded to the  same extent as other food products.

  • As a result, it has attracted  less attention from pressure  

  • groups concerned with workersrights and the environment.  

  • But as demand for rice growsalong with the world's population,  

  • and with sustainability rising up companiesand governments' agendas, the commodity's carbon  

  • footprint is gradually coming into focus.

In developing countries alone,  

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