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Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2011;62:1-23. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-042110-103906.

It is a long way to GM agriculture.

Author information

1
Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, Department of Plant Biotechnology and Genetics, Ghent University, Ghent 9000, Belgium. Marc.VanMontagu@UGent.be

Abstract

When we discovered that crown gall induction on plants by Agrobacterium tumefaciens is a natural event of genetic engineering, we were convinced that this was the dawn of a new era for plant science. Now, more than 30 years later, I remain overawed by how far and how rapidly we progressed with our knowledge of the molecular basis of plant growth, development, stress resistance, flowering, and ecological adaptation, thanks to the gene engineering technology. I am impressed, but also frustrated by the difficulties of applying this knowledge to improve crops and globally develop a sustainable and improved high-yielding agriculture. Now that gene engineering has become so efficient, I had hoped that thousands of teams, all over the world, would work on improving our major food crops, help domesticate new ones, and succeed in doubling or tripling biomass yields in industrial crops. We live in a world where more than a billion people are hungry or starving, while the last areas of tropical forest and wild nature are disappearing. We urgently need a better supply of raw material for our chemical industry because petroleum-based products pollute the environment and are limited in supply. Why could this new technology not bring the solutions to these challenges? Why has this not happened yet; what did we do wrong?

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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