Asia, home to more than half of the human race, spans a geographic area that reaches from Pakistan and India in the west, across China and Mongolia to the north, extending to Japan in the east, and throughout Indonesia in the south. An area of over 8 million square miles supports three and a half billion people (Weightman 1); a true myriad of cultures, traditions and languages, Asia is nearly impossible to conceptualize as a single entity. Interspersed across this vast sweep of land and sea are many sovereign nations, a slew of religions, and nearly every geographical landscape imaginable.
Naturally, in the 21st century, how this massive continent develops will critically impact the rest of the world. Largely under-developed, Asian nations are poised to experience many transitionsùperhaps even revolutionsùin the realm of agriculture and biotechnology. In some respects an untapped resource, there is no limit to what the Asian continent can and should produce in the coming decades.
And yet, as it stands Asia, like the world at large, contends with poverty and starvation in spite of a surfeit of food production unrivaled throughout the course of human history. However Asia, unlike other regions of the world, bears a disproportionate percentage of the many burdens associated with poverty. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, in 2004 approximately 1.2 billion people in the world are expected to be living under a one-dollar-a-day consumption level; of these 1.2 billion, 720 millionùvery nearly two thirdsùlive in Asia and the Pacific (Smith).
The challenge facing Asia then is largely one of development. How Asia develops, enhances its agricultural capabilities, explores biotechnological solutions and engages the rest of the world will be critical. Admittedly, the very concept of development is difficult to pin down using absolutes and for this the task of gauging development in a region...