Genetic Engineering of Plants: Some Perspectives on the Conference, the Present, and the Future

  • R. L. Phillips
Part of the Basic Life Sciences book series (BLSC, volume 26)


The need for continued genetic improvement in crop varieties is clearly evident. Steady progress in crop yields is expected from current plant breeding procedures, but will the advances be sufficient to meet future food demands? Recent advances in plant molecular and cellular biology have led to a number of approaches for molecular genetic manipulation of crop species. The purpose of this conference was to assess these advances in relation to crop improvement. When considering the potential impact of genetic engineering of plants, we must start with certain premises:
  • First, plant genetic engineering is a long-term effort and expanded research in the basic plant sciences is needed. Advancements in the genetic engineering of plants will depend, in part, on additional knowledge of the biochemical, physiological, and developmental processes of plants. Not only is there a need for pioneering efforts on the technological aspects of plant genetic engineering, but also for basic plant science research on which this technology depends. By the very definition of basic research, 20 to 30 years may be required before we realize benefits from some of the information. But if we do not start now, the information will not be available when needed.

  • Second, a multidisciplinary effort is required. Dean Hess pointed out in his welcome to the conference participants that “We need a continuum from basic research to the applied.” A team effort of scientists knowledgeable in molecular, cellular, and organismal biology is required for maximizing research progress directed toward applications in agriculture.

  • Third, research in plant genetic engineering is worth the effort, even if never directly applied. The basic plant science information deriving from this research is extensive, valuable, and of high quality. Simmonds aptly stated during the conference that “Improved genetic understanding has never failed to have an impact on plant breeding.”


Genetic Engineering Plant Breeding Cytoplasmic Male Sterility Somatic Hybrid Microspore Culture 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. L. Phillips
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agronomy and Plant GeneticsUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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