By the year 2050, there will be more than 9 billion people in the world; nearly 3 billion more than today. The world’s population will increase by over 700 million in the next 10 years – much of it in regions which are currently in a food deficit. How can governments ensure a secure and stable food supply for their citizens? Can current agricultural production practices and technologies provide for an expanding population in a sustainable manner? In the February 2010 summit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), agricultural ministers recognized the necessity that “innovation, including transfer of technologies, is fostered in order to increase productivity, enhance efficiency, improve sustainable resource use, respond to climate change and reduce waste including through balanced protection of intellectual property rights, and a regulatory environment conducive to innovation and new technology.”
Technology alone cannot solve problems associated with food supply and distribution – they have not done so in the past, and will not do so in the future. But biotechnological innovations have played crucial roles, and will do so in the future. Students of many disciplines and the general public are interested in examining the development and adoption of innovative biotechnologies applied in agriculture in the world’s largest economies and in developing countries, which are themselves changing rapidly to address these concerns. We are now approaching two decades of experience of deployment of transgenic crops in agroecosystems, and we are still very much in the early stages of technological development, deployment and adoption of resulting plants (cereals, vegetables and trees). What are these biotechnologies today that can enhance agricultural productivity and produce medicines, how are they currently deployed, what are some near-term realistic expectations, if these biotechnologies are to be a part of sustainable agriculture?