The world's human population, which was only one billion during 1850, had reached 6.1 billion around year 2000. This dramatic increase in population, otherwise called 'population explosion' has created its impact not only on the environment but also on food production.
Half of this 6.1 billion people live in poverty and one fifth of this population suffer due to malnutrition. Increase in population, unplanned industrialization and migration towards cities and urban areas has resulted in the degradation of the environment. The present agricultural practices have polluted cultivable land physically, chemically and biologically. The net productivity is gradually being reduced. These factors lead to the shrinkage of the agricultural lands and a fall in agricultural production.
In order to fight the menace of hunger and malnutrition, we need crops with greater yield and better nutritive value. The quantity and quality of crops can be improved by modern scientific methods through genetic manipulation called genetic engineering. However, the time old concept of breeding plants either interspecific or intraspecific to bring out the best hybrid plant in plant breeding programmes still remains in vogue even today. Efforts are being made by ICAR - Indian Council of Agricultural Research and other related organisations in our country to increase food production.
A plant breeder strives to get a group of plants or a variety with suitable combination of genes that gives better yield and improved quality under a particular set of environmental conditions. A single species is a group of assemblage of innumerable number of genetic types such as lines, strains, etc. The strains are tested in various climatic conditions, successful ones are named, multiplied and distributed as a variety or cultivar eg. Oryza sativa Co.15, ADT. 16.