The promise of biotechnology has been slow to be realized, but some commercialized products are finding their way to supermarket shelves. Nevertheless, the future potential remains in the realm of speculation and may be on the verge of delivering some incredible benefits. Since the world population growth is predicted to double in the next 50 years, primarily in developing nations, food resources will become critical. In view of this prediction, we may need every trick in the book to feed the masses, which means either more land (wetlands, forests, and rain forests) will fall to the plow or there will need to be an increase in yields. Concurrently, a decrease in postharvest losses would also be crucial. Various authorities have estimated that 25% to 80% of harvested fruits and vegetables are lost due to damage and spoilage. Early biotech successes were developing plants with enhanced insect resistance (cotton, corn, and potato) and virus resistance (squash and papaya) and improved herbicide tolerance (cotton, soybean, and corn). The only commercialized transgenic fruit engineered for improved postharvest quality so far is the tomato. Future goals for biotechnology include increasing yield, extending shelf life, improving nutritional and flavor quality, and producing specialty proteins or other compounds. Genetically engineered food, however, has met rancorous resistance in Europe, New Zealand, and elsewhere; although, it is somewhat tolerated in the U.S. The U.S., Canada, and Japan lead the world in biotech acreage, with biotechnology accounting for 40% of cotton, 39% of soybeans, and 20% of corn acreage in the U.S. and 73 million acres worldwide.
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