The past five decades in Taiwan have witnessed the growth of an economic miracle, and agriculture has been one of the unsung heroes of this story. Despite the limited land available, agriculture has seen traditional production techniques developed to their fullest potential. Not only has Taiwan agriculture succeeded in feeding and clothing the country, we have also been able to extend our technical support and expertise across the world. As we move into the next century, however, Taiwan’s agriculture faces many severe problems. Arable land is extremely limited, costs are growing continually, there is a looming energy crisis, plant diseases and insect pest outbreaks are becoming more frequent, soils are increasingly contaminated, and water is in ever-shorter supply. Adding to this, the recent accession of Taiwan to the World Trade Organization has opened up the market to foreign agricultural imports. Taiwan's agricultural systems need to be dramatically upgraded to cope with these new challenges. To ensure its continued competitiveness, to guarantee the safety and supply of food and to foster environmentally sustainable development, our agricultural industry needs to be totally transformed. Experience in many advanced nations has proven that biotechnology is a powerful tool for such change. Taiwan is doubly handicapped by its small land area and very high population density, so the application of biotechnology to agriculture will thus be especially valuable.
Back in 1994, when the former President of Academia Sinica, Dr Yuan-Tseh Lee, returned to Taiwan, he stated that the "Academy should enter and then serve the society". In line with this proposal, the development of biotechnology has become one of the major themes of research at Academia Sinica, to assist local industry and to benefit Taiwan as a whole. As part of this process, a series of strategy meetings for the development of biotechnology at Academia Sinica in February and April, 1997 proposed the creation of a biotechnology research center. Since there was no provision at that time for a "Research Center" in the Organization Law of Academia Sinica, the Council of Academia Sinica initially agreed that the establishment of the "Preparatory Office of the Institute of BioAgricultural Sciences (IBS)" which was officially approved on January 2, 1998, by the Office of the President of the Republic of China. Dr. Ning-Sun Yang was appointed as the first Director of IBS.
On September 11, 2002, the concept of a "Research Center" was officially incorporated into the Organization Law, aiming to improve research collaboration within the different research areas of the Academy. As intended earlier, IBS had pursued basic and mission-oriented research in the agricultural sciences since it was established some four years earlier, and thus fit the criteria for incorporation as a Research Center. Proceedings finally began on March 6, 2005 to transform the IBS, and on August 9, 2008, the Office of the President of the Republic of China officially approved the establishment of the "Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center" (ABRC) in the Academy. Dr. Na-Sheng Lin was appointed as the Interim Director from August 2006 to the end of 2007. Starting January 2008, Dr. Ming-Che Shih has served as the current director, with Drs. Shu-Mei Liang and Lie-Fen Shyur as associate directors. Drs. Lie-Fen Shyur and Tzyy-Jen Chiou started to serve as associate directors in 2014. Starting from January 2019, Dr. Kuo-Chen Yeh has served as the Director. Later, Drs. Hsin-Hung Yeh and Yu-Liang Yang started to serve as vice directors since January 2019. The Center currently has a total of twenty three principal investigators and five research specialists, along with various support staff. Staff currently conduct their research at the Nankang main campus of the Academy or at the Biotechnology Center in Tainan City. In the near future, as we consolidate our operations and advance the development of agriculture in Taiwan.