Globally there is a technology revolution in agriculture that is touching virtually every part of farming. A principal goal of these technologies is a sustainable supply of healthy, diverse, and safe food for a growing global population – while limiting the impact on the environment and coping with climate change. To us, this is what the term, Sustainable Agriculture, means. It is a major emphasis of the USDA and the driving force of the AgTech revolution globally.
Sustainable Agriculture is the driving force of Cibus.
Gene Editing & Sustainable Agriculture
A key part of this technology revolution is gene editing technology. It has the potential to revolutionize traditional breeding because of its precision, its ability to address the environmental challenges from our overuse of chemicals and its ability to speed the pace of innovation in farming.
The technology revolution in agriculture has many roots that overlap with new technologies evolving in many industries. There are three major areas associated with the current technology revolution:
- Robotics and automation
- Cloud/Satellite Information Systems
Each have important roles in the evolution of a sustainable agricultural system.
Precision Plant Breeding and Gene Editing is a critical part of this effort because it deals with the central player in agriculture: the seed. Because of this, precision gene editing offers the greatest chance to address the negative environmental impacts of the use of chemicals and nitrogen-based fertilizers in agriculture. Addressing these challenges are central elements of the drive to a sustainable agricultural system.
The products of precision gene editing are genetic sequences that are indistinguishable from nature. Genetic sequences provide specific traits in plants in the same way as genetics are associated with traits in humans. The important traits associated with the biological approach to crop protection are traits that address the challenges that are the focus of crop protection chemicals: insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. These traits commonly have dual benefits:
- to increase crop yield
- to decrease the use and cost of chemicals
Together, these are the productivity gains associated with these traits.
These traits are very favorable economically to farmers. As opposed to the direct cost of chemicals and the cost of applying chemicals, farmers pay trait fees tied to the lowering of these direct costs and associated yield improvements. The general rule for the pricing of traits associated with crop protection is that 2/3rds of the productivity gain accrues to the farmer. In other words, these products make farming more profitable as well as improving their work environment.
Most importantly, agricultural traits have tremendous scale associated with their benefits. In just the five major crops: corn, soybean, wheat, rice, and canola; there is a potential to directly impact billions of acres farmed globally. It is for this reason that agriculture is one of the rare global systems where sustainability efforts can directly address both carbon footprint, and impact on the environment, as well as sustainability, productivity, and profitability of the global food supply. It is for this reason that traits are such a critical part of the sustainability equation for agriculture.