University of California

Transgenes are revolutionizing crop production


George Bruening

Author Affiliations

G. Bruening is Professor, Plant Pathology and Biochemist, Experiment Station Department of Plant Pathology and National Science Foundation Center for Engineering Plants for Resistance against Pathogens (CEPRAP), UC Davis. The author is grateful to Larry E. Williams, Theodore Dejong, Paul Gepts, R. Michael Davis, Belinda Martineau, Kent Bradford, Valerie Williamson, Jim Lyons and anonymous reviewers for information and/or discussions, and to Peggy Lemaux for providing illustrations.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 54(4):36-46. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n04p36. July 2000.

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The ability to cut and join DNA to create a new molecule and to insert into the crop plant the new DNA molecule as a new gene, a “transgene,” forms the basis of the most revolutionary crop improvement technology of the 20th century. The bulk of crop transgenes thus far commercialized were designed to aid in crop protection against insects and weeds. The first commercial introduction of transgenes into field crops occurred in 1996. By 2000 in the United States, transgenic soybean and cotton accounted for more than half the area planted to these crops. Cotton accounts for virtually all current transgenic crop planting in California. This article compares transgene-based and conventional pest and weed control for potential in improving food production, food safety and environmental quality. The capabilities of recently developed technologies suggest that the first decades of the 21st century will see additional, and more dramatic, improvements in agronomic traits through use of transgenes, new chemical control methods, and enhanced integration of new technologies into various farming systems.


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Bruening G. 2000. Transgenes are revolutionizing crop production. Hilgardia 54(4):36-46. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n04p36
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