Woman scientist in a greenhouse of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi ©FAO/Jon Spaull

Biotechnology includes a broad range of technologies applied in crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, and agro-industry.

They are used for many different purposes, such as the genetic improvement of plants and animals to increase their yields or efficiency; characterization and conservation of genetic resources for food and agriculture; plant and animal disease diagnosis; vaccine development; and production of fermented foods.

FAO's role in biotechnology

Agricultural biotechnologies are being applied to an increasing extent in crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture and agro-industries, to alleviate hunger and poverty, assist in adaptation to climate change and maintain the natural resource base.

They have not sufficiently benefited smallholder farmers and producers and consumers. More research and development of agricultural biotechnologies should be focused on the needs of smallholders.

In order to produce food in a sustainable way for an additional 2 billion people by 2050, a business-as-usual approach will not be sufficient.

This is especially true in the face of climate change and other forces threatening natural resources like biodiversity, land and water that are essential for food production and agriculture, including forestry and fisheries.

To meet these challenges, science and the application of biotechnologies as well as conventional technologies will play a key role.

Biotechnology and FAO

FAO recognizes that when appropriately integrated with other technologies for the production of food, agricultural products and services, biotechnology can be of significant assistance in meeting the needs of an expanding and increasingly urbanized population. Regarding biotechnology, FAO assists its Member countries and their institutions by:

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