Society is becoming increasingly interested and involved in issues surrounding the development, use and safety of new crop varieties. The first plenary paper addresses many of these important global issues, with a related symposium exploring some aspects in more detail in the developing and developed world. The use of classical breeding techniques in the development of better-adapted, more nutritious crops has underpinned the supply of food for an ever-increasing world population. There is uncertainty, however, as to whether such procedures can continue to meet this demand.
The second plenary paper will address the integration of the new biotechnology tools with classical approaches, a probable necessity if we are to meet these growing demands for food. Crop science is an integrating discipline by which knowledge from the underlying sciences such as genetics can be harnessed for enhanced production of various crop-based products in an ecologically sustainable manner.
This is a dynamic and rapidly evolving area that is providing scientists with an enhanced understanding of the biology that underlies traits of interest. DNA sequence information once only available for simple model species is now being generated for important crop species while efficient transformation systems offer the promise of exploiting new genetic variation, and deploying new genes in a more rapid timeframe. Our challenge is to successfully harness this information and these technologies to improve breeding of new varieties.
Symposia in this theme highlight the opportunities and the challenges in harnessing genetic information for crop improvement, including the role of whole genome sequencing of model organisms, the complexity of the gene to phenotype system, the exciting opportunities in addressing biotic and abiotic stresses and of delivering new output traits by manipulation of plant metabolism, new frontiers in use of molecular markers, the changing role of the private and public sectors in world-wide breeding efforts, and the importance of accessing genetic resources to provide genetic variability.