There is big news from the Middle East that is unusual in several ways: It’s positive, involves a scientific advance, and comes from a developing country. Researchers at Cairo’s Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute have shown that by transferring a single gene from barley to wheat, the plants can tolerate less watering for a longer period of time before their leaves wilt. This new, drought-resistant variety requires only one-eighth as much irrigation as conventional wheat, and actually can be cultivated with rainfall alone in some desert areas. It could literally make the desert bloom.

Agricultural shortfalls around the world, especially in developing countries, are being aggravated by the potential catastrophe of water shortages, not only for agriculture but also for basic human needs. As groundwater dwindles, millions of wells throughout Asia and Africa are drying up.

Bureaucrats and aid workers long have searched for solutions. Gene-spliced, drought-resistant crops might provide one

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