|Cambodian farmers grow rice in Kampong Cham province, north of Phnom Penh, June 2007.AFP Photo)|
Rising sea levels triggered by climate change pose an "ominous" threat to some of the world's most productive rice-growing areas, the International Rice Research Institute has warned.
The Philippines-based institution is devoting fresh efforts to mitigating the coming threat, but senior climate scientist Reiner Wassman said adequate funding had yet to materialise.
"Some of Asia's most important rice-growing areas are located in low-lying deltas, which play a vital role in regional food security and supplying export markets," Wassman told the IRRI magazine Rice Today.
"With Viet Nam so dependent on rice grown in and around low-lying river deltas, the implications of a sea-level rise are ominous indeed."
Rice is the staple cereal of nearly half the world's 6.6 billion people.
Wassman said the impact of global warming on the key cereal would depend on the patterns of change in rice-growing regions.
But he warned a threatened rise of between 10 and 85 centimetres (four to 34 inches) in sea levels over the next century could have "enormous" impacts on some countries, including key rice exporter Viet Nam.
IRRI is cooperating with Ha Noi to assess the impact of sea-level rise scenarios in the Mekong delta, he said.
The organisation this year launched a project to assess the possible impact of climate change on rice output and find ways of adapting rice-growing to the new realities of global warming.
Aside from the sea-level rise threat to areas such as the Mekong delta, Wassman said more frequent or more intense droughts, cyclones and heat waves posed "incalculable threats to agricultural production."
But he said the IRRI was optimistic it would be able to develop new varieties that could cope with higher temperatures.