For thousands of years, human beings have been working to improve the crops they produce and the animals they raise. Over the past 150 years, researchers have contributed to these efforts by developing and perfecting selection and improvement techniques. Although enormous progress has been made, traditional selection and improvement is time-consuming and under technical constraints.
Modern biotechnology has the potential to accelerate the development and exploitation of improved crops and animals. Marker-assisted selection, for example, increases the effectiveness of traditional plant improvement by allowing rapid laboratory analysis of thousands of specimens without the need to grow plants in the field until maturity. Tissue growing techniques allow for the rapid multiplication of healthy plants of vegetatively spreading species, which can then be distributed to farmers.