Vietnamese scientists debate rice origins

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The latest report on rice sprouting from grains unearthed from 3,000-year-old ramparts in Hanoi provoked controversy among Vietnamese scientists at a conference Tuesday.

 

Tests done by the Vietnam Agricultural Genetics Institute showed that its form was the same as Khang Dan No.18 a contemporary variety, said Luu Minh Cuc from the institute.

 

The rice had sprouted from grains discovered among the vestiges of the Den ramparts in Me Linh District by a group of scientists from the Hanoi-based University of Social Sciences and Humanities in May.

 

The discovery drew interests from scientists in different fields, from archaeology to agriculture. Many of them made field trips to the site and were convinced that the rice which germinated from grains soaked in water for two days were 3,000 years old. Others, meanwhile, said more tests have to be done before drawing any conclusion.

 

"It is not ancient rice; we should stop our studies here," Tran Duy Quy, former vice director of the institute said at the conference.

Agreeing with Quy, some scientists suggested a halt to related studies.

 

However, Professor Dao The Tuan, chairman of the Association of Agriculture and Rural Development, said they should wait for more tests and experiments before coming to the most accurate conclusion possible.

 

"We need to have a thorough look [into the case]," said Tuan, who is one of the first scientists to study ancient rice in Vietnam.

 

Professor Hoang Tuyet Minh, another official of the Vietnam Agricultural Genetics Institute, also said it would be a hasty conclusion to say if the rice was ancient or not at the moment.

 

Minh said the institute's study wasn't thorough and exact enough, although he appreciated its efforts.

 

Some scientists, meanwhile, suspected the accuracy of  procedures used when the scientist group, led by Associate professor Lam Thi My Dung, took the grains from the Den ramparts. They also raised questions about methods applied in growing the rice for experiments.

 

According to Dung, the ten grains were found nearly one meter underground with other things like fish bones and shells in an area with traces of an ancient kitchen dating back 3,000-3,500 years.

 

Most scientists attending the conference agreed that further tests on the controversial rice should continue even as they waited for results of tests on its age being conducted in Japan.

 

Dung said they did not know when they would receive the results from Japan.

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