Rice cultivation is one of the most important agricultural activities on earth, with nearly 90% of it being produced in Asia. It belongs to the family of crops that includes wheat, maize and barley, and it supplies more than 50% of calories consumed by the world population. Its immense economic value and a relatively small genome size makes it a focal point for scientific investigations, so much so that four whole genome sequence drafts with varying qualities have been generated by both public and privately funded ventures. The availability of a complete and high-quality map-based sequence has provided the opportunity to study genome organization and evolution. Most importantly, the order and identity of 37,544 genes of rice have been unraveled. The sequence provides the required ingredients for functional genomics and molecular breeding programs aimed at unraveling intricate cellular processes and improving rice productivity. BioEssays 28: 421–432, 2006. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.