THE SCIENCE OF SEEDS

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