Here’s a video for those of you who, like me, enjoy goofy nerdistry. It’s a primer on the effort to make rice that grows more efficiently — complete with an explanation of the nitty-gritty science that involves coffee beans and cat poop. (I have also found myself reaching for analogies — but different ones — when talking about this stuff.)

This is an international science project, like CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, funded by governments and charities around the world. It’s an incredibly ambitious moonshot: Plant breeders have never made such complex adjustments before — though evolution has accomplished it several times. Doing something this advanced requires just about every technique plant scientists have come up with (yes, including genetic engineering).

All donations matched! Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.

So far, the project is on track, and if progress continues we’ll have rice that does photosynthesis as efficiently as corn by 2025. Such an innovation, the project hopes, could feed a billion people, but I don’t put much stock in such projections. Better to say that it could significantly help with the problem of shrinking our environmental footprint even as population grows.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.