continuing) source of therapeutic drugs—more than 20% of all prescription drugs are derived from plants and many more were first discovered and formulated as plant products. The health of the human race could well rest on the quality and extent of our understanding of plants, their uses, and their requirements.
Examples from the past—from Mendel's discovery of the rules of genetic inheritance to the X-ray diffraction of tobacco mosaic virus, which paved the way to elucidating the structure of DNA—illustrate the importance of plants to biologic research. But how well equipped are we to deal with the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead?
The concerns that led to this study were that research in and teaching of the biology of plants have been insufficiently emphasized and that plant biology has become isolated from the mainstream of biology. The Committee on an Examination of Plant-Science Programs in the United States was established in the Commission on Life Sciences of the National Research Council to review the data available and to consider whether the academic and research institutions of this country are prepared to address the opportunities in modern plant biology. The committee also was asked to recommend how the nation might change its approach to the support of plant sciences to reduce the imbalance in the emphasis given in laboratories and classrooms to plant biology relative to other fields of biology.
This report focuses on three issues facing the plant sciences in academic research and training. First is the mechanism of research funding (competitive versus noncompetitive). Second is the balance of research funding (support of basic research into the nature of life processes versus applied or adaptive research). Third is the commitment to building and maintaining an appropriate infrastructure of institutions and personnel.
The members of this committee are convinced that the U.S. research effort in plant biology is not keeping pace with biomedically related fields because of the defective mechanisms