But internal conflicts keep countries with more financial means from growing more of these crops.
Developing and developed countries should partner in biotechnology, "much like we hear about in computers," said Krishna Jajodia, a speaker at the International Chamber of Commerce conference in Denver.
Jajodia, who heads several Indian business and political groups, spoke to a packed audience at a biotechnology forum.
For wealthy countries such as the United States, biotechnology can reverse memory loss in an aging population.
By 2020, one in four Americans will be age 60 or older. About 10 percent of the elderly suffer from mild to severe cognitive disorders. A handful of biotechnology companies, including Montvale, N.J.-based Memory Pharmaceuticals, are exploring cognition-enhancing drugs.
For poorer countries, biotechnology can increase food production.
The ability of genetically modified technology to develop drought-resistant plants or crops with missing nutrients has offered hope for regions where hunger is prevalent. In India, for instance, 2.7 million children die each year from malnutrition.
In Kenya, initial trials of a pest-resistant sweet potato show promise.
But in Europe, consumer groups have raised questions about growing crops from seeds with re-engineered genes.
Although studies commissioned by the European Union show that genetically modified foods pose no health risks, concerns about their environmental impact persist. As a result European nations have moved slowly to fund agricultural biotech research in developing nations.
That angers Kenyan biotechnology expert Florence Wambugu, who told conference delegates that activists spend $100 million each year to fight trade in genetically modified crops, while African nations budget just $5 million for their appeals.
Tackling the environmental argument, she added, "Poor people cut down trees. If we don't increase food production, we'll have very few areas of original forest left."