UNITED NATIONS, May 22 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations praised as a true food hero on Saturday "Father of Hybrid Rice" Yuan Longping, renowned for developing the first hybrid rice strain that pulled countless people out of hunger.
"Today, we mourn the passing of a true food hero. Chinese scientist Yuan Longping saved millions of people from hunger by developing the first hybrid rice strains," the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) tweeted.
"He passed away today at 91 (due to illness) but his legacy and his mission to end hunger lives on," it said.
"Deep condolences on the passing of Mr. Yuan Longping! A man who made enormous contribution to China and the world! A man who will be remembered forever!" tweeted Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, also the rotating president of the Security Council for the month of May.
Having spent over five decades in hybrid rice research, Yuan, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, has helped China work a great wonder -- feeding nearly one-fifth of the world's population with less than 9 percent of the world's total land.
Born in Beijing in 1930, Yuan succeeded in cultivating the world's first high-yielding hybrid rice strain in 1973, which was later grown on a large scale in China and other countries to substantially raise output.
For the next four decades, he continued to research and upgrade hybrid rice, which has reached its third generation.
In China, where rice is a staple for the majority of its 1.4 billion people, the accumulated planting area of hybrid rice has exceeded 16 million hectares, or 57 percent of the total planting area of rice, helping feed an extra 80 million people a year.
Its growth area overseas has reached 8 million hectares.