Public-good Plant Breeding: what are the international priorities?

On 22nd May 2003, Professors MS Swaminathan, Peter Raven and Phil Dale launched an international discussion at the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum, entitled Public-Good Plant Breeding: what are the international priorities?  The event was organised by Sense About Science, in association with the John Innes Centre, the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum, and BBSRC.

View the presentations on the Natural History Museum web site

The meeting arose from the pressing need for international debate about the current challenges and opportunities for plant breeding as the Green Revolution reaches its limits. Growing pressures on the global food supply are creating further demands on land for food and animal feed production. While some regions over produce, others remain unable to grow what they need.

At the same time, we are seeing the development of new crop varieties to address yield, pests, diseases, salinity, drought and environmental impacts. We see new techniques for innovating plant varieties, and the development of plants with new roles, such as for alternative energy sources and as hosts for vaccine and antibody production.

The meeting on 22nd May was just the start. It established that it is time to review plant breeding internationally; to think beyond the confines of narrow arguments about some techniques and beyond what appears currently possible to fund or commercialise. To consider plant breeding outside of these short-term constraints needs an international discussion on the problems to solve and the scientific capacity to do it. This will be launched formally later in the summer. If you would like to be part of this discussion by sending a written contribution or would like to register for further information please send an email to