The 2007 Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium held in Des Moines this week focused on “Biofuels and Biofoods: The Global Implications of Emerging Technologies.” At the event, more than 700 leading policymakers, industry executives, and agricultural and food science experts from over 65 countries, gathered to explore the international impact that biorenewable energy will have in the coming decades.
One of the keynote speakers at the symposium was Syngenta Seeds U.S. president Jeff Cox, who says he believes the agriculture industry can adequately feed the world and support biofuel markets by developing new technologies and improving value chain collaboration.
“Some have quickly characterized a ‘food versus fuel’ debate for agriculture but I don’t see it that way. The agriculture productivity challenge is eminently solvable through technology and collaboration,” Cox said.
“Yield increases in corn since the Green Revolution have been mind-boggling. And yet, some experts say corn yields can double over the next 20 years to reach 300 bushels per acre.”
Cox cited advanced plant breeding with molecular markers as a reason new higher-yielding seed is coming to market faster than ever. “Biotechnology trains are now moving to second generation and stacked products that unleash genetic potential of the seed.”
Cox said improved water use is a timely example of how rapid implementation of technology is helping agriculture meet the challenge of producing more while using less. “In the U.S. and Latin America, we are extensively testing technology to improve the corn plant’s use of water, and yield results are consistently positive.” He noted that Syngenta recently introduced a “tropical” sugar beet in India that could efficiently produce sugar for food and biofuel use with one-fifth the water requirements of sugar cane that is currently grown in the equatorial region.