New and old biotechnologies provide powerful tools for the sustainable development of the crop and livestock sectors, fisheries and forestry, as well as the food industry. When appropriately integrated with other technologies for the production of food, agricultural products and services, biotechnologies can be of significant assistance in meeting the needs of an expanding and increasingly urbanized population. The tools vary in complexity from those that are relatively simple (such as plant tissue culture, micropropagation, molecular diagnostics of crops and livestock diseases, and artificial insemination) to those that are more sophisticated (including genomics, use of DNA microarrays, gene transfer or somatic cell nuclear transfer). They can be applied for a range of different purposes in food and agriculture, such as genetic improvement of agricultural populations, disease diagnosis and vaccine development, or characterization/conservation of genetic resources.
In furthering its objectives, and as the United Nations lead agency committed to the promotion of food and agriculture, FAO has a key role to play in assisting its member countries to harness the potential of science and technology to improve agriculture and people's access to food, while ensuring that the implications and risks in doing so are adequately addressed. FAO has been actively involved in recent years in a number of key activities focusing on biotechnologies, such as promoting international standard-setting bodies (such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission, that has e.g. developed guidelines covering the safety of foods derived from GMOs); building capacity through technical assistance and training; and providing objective, science-based information on agricultural biotechnologies. FAO implements its overall mandate, including its mandate in biotechnology, in four ways. By providing:
1) Advice to governments
2) Technical assistance
4) A meeting place for nations
To get an overview of recent FAO activities in the field of biotechnology, see News.
Page Last Updated: May 2007