Several data sources are used to estimate the potential impact of innovation in agro-biotechnology on employment in the european agro-food chain. In the late 1990s, approximately 50,000 jobs were directly due to biotechnology. The indirect employment effects are likely to be much larger. Four of the five main innovation strategies for new plant varieties are likely to reduce indirect employment, but the fifth, improved quality traits (such as enhanced oil content), could increase employment by creating higher value-added crops, although there will be job losses in industrial processing. Field test data for europe and the united states show, however, that there has been no detectable shift in agro-biotechnology innovation towards quality traits. It could be worthwhile for government policy to increase funding for public research into these traits.