When we discovered that crown gall induction on plants by is a natural event of genetic engineering, we were convinced that this was the dawn of a new era for plant science. Now, more than 30 years later, I remain overawed by how far and how rapidly we progressed with our knowledge of the molecular basis of plant growth, development, stress resistance, flowering, and ecological adaptation, thanks to the gene engineering technology. I am impressed, but also frustrated by the difficulties of applying this knowledge to improve crops and globally develop a sustainable and improved high-yielding agriculture. Now that gene engineering has become so efficient, I had hoped that thousands of teams, all over the world, would work on improving our major food crops, help domesticate new ones, and succeed in doubling or tripling biomass yields in industrial crops. We live in a world where more than a billion people are hungry or starving, while the last areas of tropical forest and wild nature are disappearing. We urgently need a better supply of raw material for our chemical industry because petroleum-based products pollute the environment and are limited in supply. Why could this new technology not bring the solutions to these challenges? Why has this not happened yet; what did we do wrong?

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A Conversation with Marc Van Montagu

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Marc Van Montagu, President of the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) and former Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Ghent, talks about his life and career with Joanne Chory, Professor of Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

  • Article Type: Review Article
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