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Challenges and Responsibilities for Public Sector Scientists

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- Marc Van Montagu, New Biotechnology, August 2010  (Institute of Plant Biotechnology for Developing Countries, Ghent University, Belgium). Full paper at Http://www.sciencedirect.com/
Current agriculture faces the challenge of doubling food production to meet the food needs of a population expected to reach 9 billion by mid-century whilst maintaining soil and water quality and conserving biodiversity. These challenges are more overwhelming for the rural poor, who are the custodians of environmental resources and at the same time particularly vulnerable to environmental degradation. Solutions have to come from concerted actions by different segments of society in which public sector science plays a fundamental role.

Public sector scientists are at the root of all the present generation of GM crop traits under cultivation and more will come with the new knowledge that is being generated by systems biology. To speed up innovation, molecular biologists must interact with scientists from the different fields as well as with stakeholders outside the academic world in order to create an environment capable of capturing value from public sector knowledge. I highlight here the measures that have to be taken urgently to guarantee that science and technology can tackle the problems of subsistence farmers.