| ||Rice plantations occupy more than 15 percent of Thailand’s surface area and dominate the landscape deep into the valleys of the north, near the cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Rice is most often harvested in a traditional manner on small family farms, threshed manually in the middle of the fields, then stocked in the villages, and finally consumed by its growers, or sold. Thailand is the global leader in rice exports (8 million tons a year, a third of its production). There are approximately 120,000 varieties of rice in the world, but the expansion of modern commercial agriculture favoring a monoculture of high-yield varieties—a single variety occupies two-thirds of the rice paddies of Southeast Asia—is gradually reducing this agricultural diversity. In China, nearly 2,000 varieties of local rice have been lost in the past thirty years. An essential genetic potential for the improvement of cultivated plants is lost with the disappearance of these wild and local varieties, while the risk of bad harvests due to crops’ uniform vulnerability to new diseases increases. Rice is the staple food of more than half the world’s population, and Asia provides 92 percent of the annual global harvest.
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