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In a move that would greatly accelerate the complete sequencing of the rice genome, the four groups involved in unravelling the genetic code of rice are discussing ways to merge their efforts into a single joint venture.

Last week, the Swiss-based agricultural biotechnology company Syngenta and the publicly funded Beijing Genomics Institute published draft maps for two subspecies of rice, japonica and indica, respectively.

Representatives of these groups, together with those from biotechnology firm Monsanto of St Louis, Missouri, and from the Japanese-led International Rice Genome Sequencing Project could meet within weeks to organise the merger, which could result in the genome being completed next year — two years ahead of the current schedule.

Reference: Nature 416, 573 (2002)

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