By 2015 the world population had passed the seven billion mark – and the latest UN forecasts suggest it will exceed nine billion by 2050. While obesity is a very real issue particularly in the richest countries, the need to raise global crop productivity, especially on small-scale farms in developing countries, is evident and urgent.

This need is made more acute by three factors:

More controversial is the scope for some types of biofuels to contribute to the struggle against global climate change. Innovative crops that can grow on land too arid for food production are one important possibility.

In recent years the dramatic improvements in crop yields seen over the past 100 years seem to have reached a ceiling.  Yet according to both FAO and the World Bank we will need to near double average yields by 2050. Only advanced breeding methods based on the appropriate use of biotechnology offer the prospect of achieving this, alongside other innovative technologies – better biological pest control for field crops, the development of safe and effective plant growth regulators and biostimulants, and precision cultivation methods.

SHL recognises the severe social and political constraints that impede small-scale farmers in most developing countries. Land rights, improved women’s education and legal position, and better rural infrastructure and communications are all essential. The need to develop and make available better crop varieties on fair terms must be seem and pursed in this wider context.  

Crop focus

Examples of the crops that SHL is engaged with include:

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