Agriculture has played a major role in the origins of
civilization. Our ancestors began cultivating and genetically
manipulating "wild plants" over 10,000 years ago. The early plant
breeders gave rise to an abundance of domesticated crops--corn,
wheat, soybeans, and rice--in different parts of the world.
During the 20th century the yield of crop plants has increased
dramatically thanks to new technolologies and cultivation practices.
Genetic engineering--the most powerful of these new
technologies--has produced crops that are resistant to insects,
viruses, and other pathogens.
Within the next decade scientists will have identified all of the
genes necessary program the entire life cycle of crop plants and
will understand their functions. We will soon be able to manipulate
crops to grow under limiting conditions and to produce an abundance
of food to feed an exponentially growing world population.