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Farmers look to biotechnology to battle climate change

Despite mounting challenges brought on by climate change, farmers around the world are increasingly being aided by modern agricultural practices, such as biotechnology.

Climate change is already affecting U.S. agriculture and land and water resources, and will continue to do so, according to a USDA report released this week at the climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in cooperation with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), has released The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems.

Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, Executive Vice President for Food and Agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) says biotechnology is one tool that can help increase agricultural productivity despite these environmental challenges.

"Our member companies have been developing environmental stress tolerance traits (plants that are naturally tolerant to extreme cold, heat, drought, saline soil, diseases and insect pests) for the past decade, and many of these are poised for commercialization," says Bomer. "The pending authorization of these products couldn't be more timely given the challenges facing farmers.

"According to this recent report, climate change is hurting crop production, distribution, and yields directly through changes in temperature and precipitation, and indirectly by increasing pest and weed outbreaks. Through biotechnology, seeds yield more per acre, plants naturally resist specific insect pests and diseases, and farmers use less energy. Genetically engineered plants and animals can naturally fight diseases and adapt to environmental stress.

"Productivity gains through biotechnology are especially crucial at a time when our population is growing and our demand for food is increasing, especially in developing countries. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, feeding a world population of 9.1 billion in 2050 will require raising food production by 70 percent. Food production will need to increase by nearly 100 percent in developing countries, where farmers are most adversely affected by climate change.

"Farmers are not defenseless in their struggle against extreme weather conditions and evolving pest populations. Biotechnology will continue to be one of many tools to help farmers meet these environmental challenges and better provide the food, fuel and fiber to serve a growing population."

About BIO

BIO represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world's largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world.

Upcoming BIO Events

7th Annual BIO Asia Partnering Conference

January 25-26, 2010

Tokyo, Japan

12th Annual BIO CEO & Investor Conference

February 8-9, 2010

New York, NY

9th Annual Windhover & Windhover PSO

February 23-25, 2010

New York City, NY

BIO-Europe Spring

March 8-10, 2010

Barcelona, Spain

BIO Intellectual Property Counsels Spring Conference and Committee


April 19-21, 2010

New Orleans, LA

BIO International Convention

May 3-6, 2010

Chicago, IL

McCormick Place Convention Center

2010 BIO Human Resources Conference

May 4-7, 2010

Chicago, IL

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