The application of biotechnology to wheat improvement
Today, the world?s population is increasing at the most rapid rate ever. Two hundred people are being added to the planet every minute. It is forecast that by the year 2050, the world?s population will double to nearly 12 billion people. To feed this population, these people will require a staggering increase in food production. In fact, it has been estimated that the world will need to produce more than twice as much food during the next 50 years as was produced since the beginning of agriculture 10 000 years ago.How will researchers continue to develop improved wheat varieties to feed the world in the future? At least for the foreseeable future, plant breeding as it is known today will play a primary role. What will change are the tools that can be employed. This chapter focuses on current approaches for the use of modern molecular-based technologies to develop improved varieties and discusses areas for future applications.Biotechnology can be defined in many different ways, but for the purpose of this chapter, all areas that use molecular approaches to understand and manipulate a plant genome will be considered. However, for the sake of discussion, the techniques are divided between those that make use of molecular markers for studying the genetic material already present within the wheat plant and genetic engineering aimed at the introduction of novel genetic material. It is the latter that often raises concern and that many believe represents ?modern biotechnology?
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