BIOTECH FOR IMPROVED AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY*

 From ISAAA 2002.12.19


Research has to be done to improve agricultural productivity and food quality in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan
Africa. Jennifer Thomson, scientist at the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa, says that research must include resistance to plant viruses, fungi and the parasitic weed Striga. Other areas include the development of resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis toxin-expressing crops, and studies on drought and heat tolerant crops as well as those that can combat the problems of soil deficiencies.

Thomson adds that vaccine production in plants should be a high priority. Research into food quality should include the equivalents of "golden rice" in corn, the enhancement of the production of phytosterols and improved qualities of vegetable oils.

Thomson cautions though that farmers will not plant crops with such improvements unless they are linked to increased yields and increased profits. Scientists undertaking this research, according to the South African scientist, need to bear this in mind and ensure that the plants they produce meet farmers' expectations.

The full paper is available in the American Society for Nutritional Sciences journal, 0022-3166/02. Email Jennifer Thomson at JAT@science.uct.ac.za <mailto:JAT@science.uct.ac.za> for further details.