Importance of Plant Biotechnology to Agriculture!
Plant biotechnology complements plant breeding efforts by increasing the diversity of genes and germplasm available for incorporation into crops and by significantly shortening the time required for the production of new cultivars, varieties and hybrids.
From an economic perspective, plant biotechnology offers significant potential for the seed, agrochemical, food processing, specialty chemical and pharmaceutical industries to develop new products and manufacturing processes.
Perhaps the most compelling attribute of the application of plant biotechnology to agriculture is its relevance both to helping ensure the availability of environmentally sustainable supplies of safe, nutritious and affordable food for developed countries; and to providing a readily accessible, economically viable technology for addressing primary food production needs in the developing world.
The need for new agricultural technologies, in general, is driven by two distinct, and at times contradictory societal requirements-ensuring a safe, nutritious, and affordable food supply for the planet, and at the same time, minimising the negative environmental impacts of food production itself. It is estimated that world population will double in the next 40 years, to exceed 10 billion.
The combination of population increase, the decline in the availability of arable land, and the need for improvements in the quality of dietary intake in many developing countries means that agricultural production will have to be doubled, or even tripled, on a per acre basis to meet this need.
At the same time, societal concerns over the environmental impact of certain agricultural practices will increasingly restrict the types of tools that can be used in crop production. How will agricultural systems evolve by the year 2030 to meet these needs? How do we increase the productive efficiency of existing cultivated land without irreversibly damaging the planet? The answer is deceptively straightforward: investment in, and development of, new agricultural technologies is absolutely critical for a sustainable agriculture for the future.
Current agricultural technologies such as plant breeding and agrochemical research and development (R&D) will continue to play a major role in assuring a plentiful and safe food supply; environmentally sensitive and economic farm management practices will also play an important role. Advances in all these areas will be required to meet world food production needs.
Plant biotechnology is uniquely important in this regard because it is:
1. A new tool which can significantly impact crop productivity;
2. Compatible with sustainable, environmentally sound agricultural practices;
3. A non-capital intensive approach that will benefit agriculture in developing countries; and
4. A source of value-added genes and traits that will increase farmer productivity and profitability.