Ag plays major role in North Carolina biotech

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The United Nations projects that by 2050, we'll have nine billion people in the world. Those additional 1.8 billion people will need to eat. Where will all that food come from?

It's a question that North Carolina companies are researching in earnest.

For example, we know we'll need crops that tolerate drought, but will there be new ways of controlling pests and disease? North Carolina has companies working on that.

We'll need new sources of protein, including new feed grains for our meat animal industry. North Carolina has people working on that.

Will plants need to get new life as green medicine factories? North Carolina even has companies working on that.

More than 80 ag biotech companies and a workforce of 8,000 call North Carolina home. Five of the top six ag biotech companies have headquarters or major research facilities in the state. And numerous entrepreneurial companies are developing the technologies that will help us meet future demand for food.

Ag biotech isn't limited to food, though that's a pretty important topic. North Carolina's companies are developing biofuels, vaccines, antibiotics, diagnostics and early-warning tests for biodefense.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center's Ag Biotech Initiative is working to grow this sector for the state. Launched in 2009, the initiative has connected large companies, entrepreneurial companies and supporting partners statewide to catalyze ag biotech cluster development. Some of the state's recent successes:

  • BASF, Bayer CropScience, Novozymes and Syngenta, all with headquarters in North Carolina, announced major expansions in the state.
  • The Biotechnology Crop Commercialization Center's first project to replace feed corn for the meat animal industry increased sorghum production five-fold and created significant cost savings.
  • The nation's first ag biotech high school is preparing to welcome its third class this fall.

NCBiotech's ag biotech initiative is one of the nearly 30 participants in the North Carolina Pavilion at the BIO International Convention June 23-26 in San Diego. Ag biotech presentations in the pavilion will take place at 1:30 p.m. PST on Wednesday, June 25 and Thursday, June 26.

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