This comprehensive survey of modern plant breeding traces its history from the earliest experiments at the dawn of the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century to the present day and the existence of high tech agribusiness. Murphy tells the story from the perspective of a scientist working in this field, offering a rationale and evidence-based insight into its development. Crop improvement is examined from both a scientific and socio-economic perspective and the ways in which these factors interact and impact on agricultural development are discussed, including debates on genetically-modified food. Murphy highlights concerns over the future of plant breeding, as well as potential options to enable us to meet the challenges of feeding the world in the 21st century. This thoroughly interdisciplinary and balanced account serves as an essential resource for everyone involved with plant breeding research, policy and funding, as well as those wishing to engage with current debates.