Improved technology delivery systems are the key to bringing the benefits of science-based technology to small-scale farmers, including the benefits of genetic engineering. The heavy investments currently being made by private sector industry in developed countries in biotechnology, particularly in plant genetic engineering, indicate clearly their perception of future developments.
Genetic enhancement and biotechnology alone are unlikely to ensure increased production in support of improved food security. For example, evidence from the recent drought in southern Africa indicates that about two-thirds of the yield increases obtained from improved sorghum varieties based on International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) material can be traced back to better management at farm level, even during a time of severe drought. Extension efforts accompanying the release of higher-yielding improved seed are at least as important as the genetic material itself, also under low- input conditions. A recent Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) review of progress in marginal agriculture in West Africa indicates that moderate successes have also been recorded in low-potential areas. This is important for the social and political stability of less well-endowed regions, which often harbour a large proportion of those who are currently food- insecure. In these areas, where there are fundamental biological limitations to agricultural production, the focus must be on education and off-farm employment opportunities to reduce pressure on the land.