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Coping with water scarcity: What role for biotechnologies?

This report combines a background paper and summary report from a moderated email conference held by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in March 2007.

The background paper outlines the current and future challenges for water availability. The authors discuss options for dealing with water scarcity, focusing on agricultural water use, and ask how biotechnologies — from microorganisms for pest control to genetically modified crops — can help.

The summary report highlights the consensus among conference participants that biotechnology has a valuable role to play in addressing water scarcity in developing countries.

It presents examples of biotechnologies being used in the developing world, including marker-assisted selection, genetic modification, biofertilisers and wastewater recycling. But the report calls for increased collaboration and interdisciplinary research, as well as more involvement of stakeholders in designing solutions, to help biotechnologies move from the lab to farmers' fields.

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