Clive Cookson, covering the BIO meeting in Atlanta, writes in the Financial Times today, “Brent Erickson, head of Bio’s industrial and environmental section, said the target set by the new National Renewable Fuel Standard - to increase production of cellulosic biofuel from nothing this year to 1bn gallons in 2013 and 16bn gallons in 2022 - was achievable.”
“New technology uses enzymes and micro-organisms to break down tough molecules such as cellulose in grasses and lignin in wood, producing ethanol and other liquids for use as fuels that can replace petrol (gasoline) or diesel for transport. Jack Huttner, who runs a cellulosic ethanol partnership between DuPont of the US and Danisco of Denmark, said: ‘From our point of view the technology is ready for commercialisation. It is no longer five years from the market.’”
According to a report released today by UK-based PG Economics at the BIO Convention farmers around the world are growing more crops in a more environmentally sustainable manner.
The use of biotech crops has contributed significantly to:
Removing 14.2 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — equal to removing nearly 6.3 million cars from the road for one year.
Providing substantial net economic benefits at the farm level amounting to $10.1 billion in 2007 and $44.1 billion for 1996 to 2007.
Terry Wanzek, a farmer from North Dakota, who spoke at the press conference stated, “Because of biotechnology, we’re able to feed more people with less farmland than ever before. Biotechnology enhances production efficiency and creates a more plentiful supply of safe, reliable and affordable food for a hungry world. In the years ahead, our capabilities will do nothing but improve.”
There were several panels related to agricultural biotechnology on the second day of the BIO Convention focusing on a variety of issues including high-performing energy crops, emerging standards for stewardship in agriculture, private public partnerships to promote agricultural development and increasing drought tolerance in plants.
We had the opportunity to interview Michael Metzlaff of Bayer CropScience, the moderator of the “Breakthroughs in Plant Stress Tolerance Technologies” who spoke of the advances in research in drought tolerant crops.
We also talked with Daniel Mataruka of African Agricultural Technology Foundation, who spoke on the “Public-Private Partnerships in Agricultural Biotechnology: Going Beyond Development Impact” panel. Dr. Mataruka spoke of the political resistance to ag biotech in Africa and the efforts to overcome the opposition.
BIOtechNOW Blog wrote about the “The Value Proposition for Next-Generation Energy Crops: Value Chain and Business Model Considerations” panel:
Food & Ag sessions got off to an interesting start this morning as three companies told their very different tales of sailing turbulent economic waters over the past two years in search of profitable harbors.
With oil at $140/barrel, it looked like a game almost anybody could play. With oil at $50/barrel things are a lot more competitive.
Aaron Schuchart (Mendel BioTechnology) described Mendel’s approach to the challenges of making and selling improved seeds to serve farmers seeking to provide feedstock for biomass energy and fuels. When a 10 percent increase in yield can improve producer margins by 114 percent, it’s a market worthy of attention. Mendel is working with a variety of materials including sugarcane and, Miscanthus, testing a broad variety of germplasm in search of the best material to adapt to regional markets.
“Advanced biofuel companies are ready to deploy their technology and begin meeting the requirements of the National Renewable Fuel Standard. Now that the rules of the program are finally moving forward and the Obama administration has demonstrated a firm commitment to the industry, companies are prepared to build the next generation of biorefineries.”
“The recent analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that biofuels produced with biotech tools will dramatically reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from transportation - more than 100 percent compared to gasoline, in some cases. In addition to enabling production of cellulosic biofuels, biotechnology can continue to help biofuel producers reduce carbon emissions by increasing yields of fuel per ton of raw material and decreasing energy use in production of biofuels. Biotechnology can also help farmers increase yields per acre and reduce petroleum inputs in agriculture.
This echoed a statement from the panel that there “needed to be a predictable policy on biofuels for it to succeed and have a real impact” in addressing climate change.
Gabriela Cruz, a fourth generation farmer from Portugal who has been farming for 20 years, talked with us about the benefits of agriculture biotechnology farming for conservation. Cruz discussed the economic and environmental benefits of ag biotech farming for both farmers and the Portuguese government. According to Cruz, ag biotech farming reduces costs, water and energy consumption, erosion effects, and carbon emissions, while improving air quality, biodiversity and income. Says Cruz, “…without agriculture biotechnology, I would not be able to carry on my conservation agriculture practice.”