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Weeds are a major constraint on the quality of life of most women in developing countries but modern technology can help, says Jonathan Gressel from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

Women do the majority of backbreaking weeding in the developing world. But although many speakers at this year's World Food Symposium (October 2009) did highlight gender inequalities in agriculture, they focused on the need to improve women's education and health.

Few spoke about the impact weeds have on women's quality of life or about how biotechnology can help.

Engineers have designed more ergonomic hoes to aid weeding. And genetically engineered herbicide-resistant crops are already being used by women in South Africa to control weeds.

Gebisa Ejeta received the World Food Prize for his work in genetically engineering sorghum to resist attach by the parasitic weed Striga (see Ethiopia's sorghum superhero).

Genetic engineering can also be used to design crops that produce chemicals to suppress weeds.

Such efforts show that modern biotechnology can be effectively used to control weeds and reduce the drudgery facing most women in the developing world.

Link to full article in Nature Biotechnology