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Inside View: An AgBiotech View of the World

Editor's Note: The full roundtable discussion is featured in this month's Business North Carolina.

Every once in a while, I get the opportunity to listen to leaders in their fields discuss a topic. Late in January, the topic was agriculture, which might make you think about the food on your plate.

Then phrases like “protein-based diet versus starch-based diet” and “land and water use” started flying.

Suddenly, it was much more than food that we were talking about.

“It does get down to basic security and survival,” said Norris Tolson, our president and CEO.

Since we’ve launched our AgBiotech Initiative, I’ve become fluent in some startling statistics.

  • We’ll have another 2.3 billion people on the planet by 2050
  • We’ll need about 70 percent more food to feed them
  • We’ll need to devote 463,000 more square miles to food production – larger than all the states on the East Coast

And by the way, about 70 percent of water use globally is for farming.

It’s a big problem – one that I might not be around to see. But the people in this room were thinking about it.

We can’t just bury our heads in the sand, said one.

Said another, the pressures will only increase.

Here’s where the tools of biotechnology come in. Biotechnology has already produced crops that reduce the amount of chemicals used to keep pests away from crops. In the future, we could see higher-yield crops. Or crops may take less water to grow, making arid land more productive. They may have enhanced nutrition, which will pay off for both first- and third-world consumers.

North Carolina has the biotech and the agriculture muscle to make this happen, said Adam Monroe of Novozymes.

Judging by the conversation in the room, we have the brains too.

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