The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)

 

From Green Revolution to Gene Revolution

Robert Evenson
IIASA
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, 

Austria

 

This paper will first review the recently completed study of the green revolution. This review will show that, for several crops, the diffusion of high-yielding (quantitative) plant types depended on (qualitative) traits. These traits included host plant resistance (HPR) to plant diseases and to insect pests, and host plant tolerance (HPT) to abiotic stresses (drought, submergence, etc.). The incorporation of traits in the green revolution was achieved utilizing conventional breeding and wide crossing methods. The first generation techniques available in the gene revolution enable breeders to incorporate HPR and HPT traits through genetic engineering techniques. The gene revolution in its early stages thus constitutes a continuation of green revolution strategies with expanded opportunities for achieving trait expression. The distributional implications, both within countries and between countries, of HPR-HPT trait incorporation have been important. As more HPR-HPT traits have been incorporated into successive generations of varieties, access to high-yield crop germplasm has been expanded to more areas and eco-systems. This expansion has had favorable income and nutritional consequences. The natural congruity of first generation biotechnology products thus also has favorable income and nutritional prospects. A detailed study of rice biotechnology developments will be used to show how biotechnology can produce favorable distributional consequences and how a disparity in access to biotechnology methods between developed and developing countries is very unfavorable to developing countries.

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