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87th Faculty Research Lecture
Genetic Engineering in Agriculture: Super Plants for the 21st Century

Robert B. Goldberg
Professor of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

December 2, 1999

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.


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