The use of gamma radiation to improve rice varieties is being successfully promoted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, said its director general Dr Mohamed ElBaradei at the organisation's recent conference in Vienna.

He spoke of the recent harvesting in Indonesia of a "new strain of rice with higher yield and better quality, produced using gamma radiation, which has successfully been introduced in 20 Indonesian provinces."

He added that at least seven additional varieties of radiation treated rice would be released in south-east Asia during the next three to five years.

Meanwhile, ElBaradei said that a regional technical cooperation project completed last year had created a new "valuable" mutated germplasm - the basic genetic material for plant breeding - which was now being exploited in 12 Asia-Pacific countries.