As a plant breeder and agricultural scientist, I believe that the greatest ‘recent’ innovation in my field has been the development of genetically modified (GM) crops.
This began in the early 1980s with the invention of methods to directly introduce foreign genes into plants. Since then scientists have developed many new plant varieties with novel traits of value to farmers and the consumers. The innovation spawned a burgeoning field of agricultural biotechnology that has vast potential to help reduce the footprint of agriculture on the environment, boost food production worldwide, help achieve greater food security in the developing countries, reduce our reliance on chemical inputs, enhance the nutrition and quality of our food, and also help develop innovative products such as biofuels and pharmaceuticals.
While many European countries are still reluctant to embrace GM technology in farming, the rest of the world has moved forward growing these crops on more than a billion acres in the past 10 years, resulting in tremendous benefits to their growers and the environment. While these benefits have been real and substantial, all of the supposed ‘risks’ from GM crops claimed by sceptics have been either hypothetical, not-unique or too insignificant to be of any concern.
Channapatna S Prakash is Professor of plant molecular genetics in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Tuskegee University and president of the AgBioWorld Foundation.