Plant biology in the 21st Century
The importance of plant biology is difficult to overstate. Research on plants has led to many fundamental breakthroughs, from Gregor Mendel`s elucidation of the basic principles of genetics, via Barbara McClintock`s discovery of transposons, to the recent work on epigenetics and RNA silencing. During the last 30 years, the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana has emerged as a primary experimental system for modern molecular biology.
In addition, plants are the primary producers of the world`s ecosystems, and thus central to life on earth, a fact to which rising food prices and a rapidly changing climate have brought renewed attention. There is no doubt that basic research on plant biology can play a major role in solving some of the problems with sustainable food and energy production mankind will face in the 21st century.
Despite all this, plant biology worldwide is very poorly funded, and funding for basic plant biology is almost non-existent. The GMI is one of the very few exceptions — an environment in which some of the most challenging and important questions of modern biology can be addressed.