New Plant Breeding Technologies for Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture

AAEA Fellow releases new research in AEPP.

Plant breeding has considerably increased agricultural yields in recent decades and thus made a major contribution to combating global hunger and poverty. At the same time, however, the intensification of farming has had negative environmental effects. Increases in food production will continue to be crucial for the future because the world population and demand continue to grow. A recent study by the University of Göttingen shows that new plant breeding technologies - such as genetic engineering and gene editing - can help to increase food production whilst being more environmentally friendly. The results have been published in the journal Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy.


For the study, the agricultural economist Professor Matin Qaim from the University of Göttingen in Germany evaluated 50 years' worth of research from around the world.

"Cereals are cheap sources of calories, which explains why hunger has been significantly reduced in recent decades," explains Qaim. "Unfortunately, the Green Revolution was less successful in combating widespread micronutrient deficiency. This requires a more balanced diet and more diversity in agricultural production with more beans, vegetables, fruit and other locally adapted species."

New molecular breeding technologies can help modify plants to produce higher yields. In addition, plants can be bred to require less fertilizer and pesticides because they make better use of soil nutrients and are more resistant to disease, pests and extreme weather conditions. The new technologies can also speed up the breeding of new traits, enabling faster adaptation to climate change.

"Even though new methods like CRISPR were only invented a few years ago, they have already been used successfully in many different crops. The methods are relatively simple and inexpensive, so even small laboratories can use them to improve local species. This is an important step towards greater diversity," says Qaim.

The article "Role of new plant breeding technologies for food security and sustainable agricultural development" is available to the public open access. If you would like to set up an interview with Matin Qaim, please contact Allison Scheetz in the AAEA Business Office.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices and the online open access publication series Applied Economics Teaching Resources. To learn more, visit http://www.aaea.org.

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