Public-good plant breeding: What should be done next?

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Plant breeding has played a major role in improving crop production during the past century. From the birth of genetics to the early 1980s plant breeding was driven in the UK mainly by objectives directed primarily to the public good. Since that time most plant breeding has been transferred to the private sector, which must define objectives more narrowly in terms of commercial success. There were significant changes in agriculture over the 20th century, including the use of production subsidies to stimulate increase in crop production. Associated with these changes was a growing public unease about the impact of agriculture on the environment and an increasing dissociation between agriculture and food supply. It is within this context that the UK has recently decided to review whether to proceed with the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops. To aid this decision the UK Government has supported a review of the science, economics and public attitudes associated with the decision. As part of this review there has been vigorous campaigning on the topic, which has become polarised and politicised. In considering a future for plant breeding, it is important that we take stock of breeding aims that are directed primarily at meeting public-good and needs-led objectives. Various examples of public-good breeding objectives are discussed. But in meeting future public-good objectives it is important that there is greater honesty and openness in a discussion that values all constructive contributors.Journal of Commercial Biotechnology (2004) 10, 199–208; doi:10.1057/

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2004

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