Divergence, convergence, and innovation: East-west bioscience in an anxious age

William Hoffman, Leo T Furcht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


If current economic growth trends persist, the “Great Divergence” between Western Europe and East and South Asia in per capita income that commenced two hundred years ago will close sometime this century. Key to the closing will be greater accessibility to technology and higher education in East and South Asia and the relentless diffusion of knowledge including in the biosciences. Advances in the biosciences are poised to contribute in a major way to Thomas Malthus’s four necessities of human life-food, fiber, fuel, and building materials-as well as to human and animal health, biodiversity conservation, and environmental remediation and sustainability. Powerful new biological technologies like genomics and synthetic biology are just beginning to be applied in ways that can sever the link between economic growth and carbon pollution. Precise genomic editing of cereal grains could equip rice, wheat, and maize with nitrogen fixation capabilities, thus reducing the need for synthetic fertilisers with their environmental and atmospheric costs. East and South Asia, facing major food production challenges, ecological limits, pollution from fertiliser use, and drought from climate change, may take the lead over the West in adopting innovative food crop technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalAsian Biotechnology and Development Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Bioscience
  • Ecosystems
  • Energy
  • GM crops
  • Genomics
  • Innovation


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