Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Biotech firms race to create crops for new climates

Food security and healthy crops are of utmost importance to farmers and consumers worldwide. The biotechnology industry is trying to develop genes that will enable crops to overcome the effects of climate change.

Rick Weiss of the Washington Post reports, "A handful of the world's largest agricultural biotechnology companies are seeking hundreds of patents on gene-altered crops designed to withstand drought and other environmental stresses, part of a race for dominance in the potentially lucrative market for crops that can handle global warming." The genes will boost crops' abilities to "survive drought, flooding, saltwater incursions, high temperatures and increased ultraviolet radiation -- all of which are predicted to undermine food security in coming decades," Weiss writes.

The Post story was based on an advance look at a report released today by ETC Group, an Canada-based activist group that advocates for subsistence farmers. The report contends that the applications are an intellectual-property grab, but the companies said "Gene-altered plants will be crucial to solving world hunger but will never be developed without patent protections," Weiss reports.

No comments: