2004 has been declared the International Year of Rice by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations! Almost 3 billion people share the culture, traditions, and untapped potentials of rice. In remote villages of southeast Asia, farmers still compare a grain of rice to a "grain of gold". In modern Japan, people see rice as the very heart of their culture. Along the Senegal River in West Africa, villagers greet guests with specially prepared rice dishes. In the western hemisphere rice becomes a wonderful risotto and at the same time is also symbolic of wedding celebrations. Wherever it is grown rice enters people's lives not only as a daily food but also at religious festivals, in paintings, myths, and in songs. Even in nations "new to rice", cultivation of the crop has changed landscapes, introduced new cuisine, and provided farmers with new sources of income. Rice is food - but more than a food. "The medium is the message": Rice is society, culture, politics, business, the beauty of a landscape, people in their communities. Rice is life.