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Biotechnology must be embraced to protect food security

The adoption of biotechnologies to improve crop production has stalled, which threatens global food security, according to a new study from the University of Birmingham.

The researchers are urging the scientific community to work harder to raise awareness on the value of biotechnology in the face of climate change. Plant breeding technologies are urgently needed to create crops that can endure global warming. 

The interdisciplinary research team, which includes economists, plant breeders and plant scientists, is calling on governments worldwide to establish policies and regulations that will drive progress in biotechnology.

In an article published in the journal Trends in Plant Science, the experts noted that societal acceptance of technologies such as gene editing is a big barrier to adoption. 

“Plant science has advanced rapidly over the past 25 years. Adopting these new technologies would enable us to make huge advances in reducing agricultural emissions, improving agricultural sustainability and productivity and increasing the nutritional value of plants,” said Professor Christine Foyer.

“Despite this, public acceptance has been slow. This is partly because the benefits are not sufficiently widely recognized, and partly because of historic fears and misconceptions around genetically modified plants.”

“Learning from the harsh lessons of past failures, plant scientists must now be advocates for their achievements in order to gain public confidence in new and emerging technologies.”

Study co-author Professor Wallace Cowling explained that future food security depends on accelerating crop genetic improvement using all sources of valuable genes.

“Breeding for complex traits, such as heat or drought tolerance, will require optimized breeding strategies in a more rapid and sustainable form of plant breeding,” said Professor Cowling.

“Modeling suggests that we can keep pace with climate change and improve crop yields long into the future if we integrate genes derived from biotechnology into improved breeding schemes.”

The study is published in the journal Trends in Plant Science,

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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