Agricultural Biotechnology: Finding Common International Goals
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Agriculture has had a long history of innovation and adaptation as new ideas, practices, and technologies emerged. Agricultural biotechnology has emerged as a new engine of change in farming. Through directed genetic alterations, crops have been given new traits that enhance their resistance to insect pests, permit more targeted and safer control of weeds, and that eventually will improve their nutritional value or their value as industrial feedstocks.
Technology, innovation, change… these all speak to a sense of promise for the future. But some people see them as ominous, others merely as a solvable dilemma. The problem stems from a set of glo¬bal trends that are unprecedented in human history. Since the time our species appeared on the planet, our population hovered far below one billion people but around 1980 the human ecological footprint exceeded the estimated carrying capacity of the planet. For people in the chronically poor parts of the world, inadequacies in diet and income remain lethally acute and many people remain deprived of basic essentials needed for an acceptable quality of life. There is no more arable land to open up, existing arable land is becoming depleted of nutrients or contaminated. Agriculture will be a major player in meeting the challenges of providing a safe and healthy food supply, minimizing our ecological footprint on the planet, and improving the quality of life of many people.
This conference focused on if and how agricultural biotechnology could be used to address issues of the environment and minimize the ecological footprint of people on the planet, quality of life for all people including those who grow crops, and the growing need for safe and healthy food.