Plant genetics, sustainable agriculture and global food security.

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Abstract or Summary

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The United States and the world face serious societal challenges in the areas of food, environment, energy, and health. Historically, advances in plant genetics have provided new knowledge and technologies needed to address these challenges. Plant genetics remains a key component of global food security, peace, and prosperity for the foreseeable future. Millions of lives depend upon the extent to which crop genetic improvement can keep pace with the growing global population, changing climate, and shrinking environmental resources. While there is still much to be learned about the biology of plant-environment interactions, the fundamental technologies of plant genetic improvement, including crop genetic engineering, are in place, and are expected to play crucial roles in meeting the chronic demands of global food security. However, genetically improved seed is only part of the solution. Such seed must be integrated into ecologically based farming systems and evaluated in light of their environmental, economic, and social impacts-the three pillars of sustainable agriculture. In this review, I describe some lessons learned, over the last decade, of how genetically engineered crops have been integrated into agricultural practices around the world and discuss their current and future contribution to sustainable agricultural systems.


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