Throughout history, seeds have been critical to the survival of plants and animals. And for centuries scientists have worked to create new kinds of seeds that would deliver higher-yielding varieties with better agronomic traits, disease resistance, and stress tolerance. During the last 30 years alone, the use of new technologies has led to a 50% increase in productivity of the major agricultural crops.

Today, biotechnology-the application of advanced genetics and molecular biology to crop improvement-is at the forefront of innovation in plant breeding. Using cutting-edge tools such as genetic engineering, marker-assisted selection, and germplasm, the industry has been effective in developing seeds that have led to a wealth of safe and positive results:

  • Increase in crop yields (which is helping to feed the world's growing population, especially in developing countries)
  • Improvement in nutrition
  • Protection from insects, diseases, and herbicides
  • Protection of the environment (less greenhouse gases, pesticides, water pollution, soil erosion)
  • Production of energy and chemicals from renewable resources

Seed companies devote significant time and resources to innovation. In 2007 alone, the industry spent nearly $3 billion on Research & Development. Going forward, challenges include developing:

  • Healthier foods (such as specialty soybeans and canola, which reduce trans fats)
  • New pest-, disease-, and drought-resistant crops
  • Biodegradable industrial products (such as hydraulic oils, bio-diesel, and plastics) from renewable resources
  • Vaccines that are delivered in fruits, rather than syringes