Detail: Rice is classified into two major varietal groups: Japonica and Indica, both of which were grown in China some 8,000 years ago and are believed to have originated from there.
Basmati, which is endemic to northern India, Pakistan and Iran, has been falsely assumed to be in the Indica group due to its characteristic long, thin grains and because it is grown in India, where Indica varieties are widespread. Japonica varieties, which include sushi rice, are widely grown in East and Southeast Asia and tend to have shorter, stickier grains.
When the gene, called BADH2, loses its function through the natural process of mutation, rice becomes fragrant. This study (Kovach et al, 2009 PNAS) reports eight novel mutations in BADH2 associated with fragrance and found that a previously discovered mutation, or allele, is shared by the vast majority of fragrant rice varieties today, including the fragrant Japonica varieties known as basmati and the fragrant Indica variety known as Thai jasmine.
"Thai scientists recently patented the use of a genetic engineering strategy to knock out the BADH2 gene while claiming the fragrance trait was part of their national heritage -- through Thai jasmine rice -- and "belonged to the Thai people. They would like to use this approach to impart this characteristic fragrance on other crops like wheat and maize.
Claims of ownership of rice are important for national identity, but people's concepts of national identity are often over-simplified. Humans continuously exchange ideas, technology and everything that is valuable, and in the exchange, they become something new. The lesson is that while each culture and each rice variety represents something unique, much of what we value most is shared by all." said McCouch, the corresponding author of this paper.
Extracted from Cornell Chronicle Sept 1, 2009
For the full article : http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Sept09/RiceFragrance.html