Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: May 1, 2004
Publication Date: August 1, 2004
Citation: Mattoo, A.K. 2004. Biotechnology in the context of developing nations. In: Munshi, M., and Sopory, S.K., editors. Biotechnology. Applications and Careers. New Delhi: Viva Books Private Ltd. p. 34-35. Interpretive Summary: This is an invited Perspective Chapter summarizing the current and future course of biotechnology as it relates to the developing nations. This information is of use to students seeking new careers and to academicians in developing nations to appreciate the advantages of biotechnology.
Technical Abstract: Food needs are expected to soar with the world population estimated to reach >10 billion in 2030 A.D., a doubling from that in the year 1992 A.D. Farmers have therefore the hard task of producing more food than from the beginning of agriculture while the cultivable land remains more or less the same. The challenge for agriculturists is not only to increase food production but also to reduce production costs with less reliance on chemical pesticides, fungicides and fertilizer. A clear technological leap is merging traditional genetics with direct gene manipulation in producing transgenic plants with better quality, longer post-harvest life, and inbred-traits conferring resistance to phytopathogens and phytophagous insects. Plant biotechnology has emerged as a powerful tool to efficiently and precisely re-tailor genetic make-up of plants to our advantage. What does this mean for the developing world, including India? First, that there is hope that merging breeding strategies with transgenetically engineered crops can better the life of a common person as well as that of the farmer. One can develop highly nutritious produce with built-in defense against pests, thus reducing the chemical in-put and making the ecosystem friendlier. Second, one can tackle more regional agricultural problems and find solutions by interfacing molecular marker based selections with genetic engineering strategies suited to a particular environment and soil type. What needs to be done immediately? One critical but by no means an easy issue is that educational institutions and funding agencies must revisit age-old curriculum and revise it in context of the new science and technologies.