Plant Biotechnology Needed to Meet World Demand

Bayer CropScience International Forum promotes scientific dialog in Belgium on Friday. Compiled by staff

Published on: Sep 17, 2004

The worldwide demand for food, feed, and modern textile fibers can only be met in the future with the help of plant biotechnology.

This is the assessment of Bernward Garthoff, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer CropScience AG, responsible for research and development: "Bayer CropScience is committed to plant biotechnology, which aims at improving the quality of agricultural products and producing entirely new high-value products in plants. Examples range from bio-engineered plastics to plant-made pharmaceuticals," Garthoff emphasized at Bayer CropScience's second annual Science Forum. It focused on "Biotechnology in Agriculture: Shaping the future" and took place on September 17, 2004 in Gent, Belgium.

Over 150 leading scientists, representatives from the food and textile industry, authorities and members of the media attended the forum. The participants from 18 different countries appreciated the opportunity to exchange their views and opinions with their international peers.

Bayer CropScience has created the Science Forum as an event to foster scientific dialog and promote open discussion with all the partners. This year's forum was held in combination with the official inauguration of its new 20 million euro innovation center for plant biotechnology in Gent.

Prof. Friedrich Berschauer, Chairman of the Board of Management of Bayer CropScience AG, underlines the importance of Bayer's plant biotechnology strategy. "Plant biotechnology has the potential to open up whole new business areas that will totally redefine the current market scope and perception," he says. "Novel plant based products for health, nutrition, fibers and other industrial uses to meet the demand for new solutions using renewable resources are some of the projects currently envisaged".

Prof. David Baulcombe of the John Innes Center (UK) held the keynote speech on RNA interference, a technology only recently discovered to be naturally occurring in cells. Researchers from Bayer CropScience complemented this by illustrating how the technology is used in today's molecular biology as a valuable tool in the discovery process of novel crop protection products as well as in crop improvement.

The participants agreed that the safety aspects of new technologies are an important factor to observe for all involved in innovation. Dr. Herman Koëter of the European Food Safety Authority addressed the issue from a European regulatory perspective.

Cotton served as a vibrant example of the various aspects involved in growing, producing and improving an agricultural crop. External and internal experts discussed ways and methods of applying plant biotechnology to a crop and the multitude of opportunities it holds in creating tangible benefits.

Berschauer clearly stated the company's objective of open and structured debate on the scientific, economic, social and ethical dimensions of Plant biotechnology. "I am convinced that open dialog with the public and all stakeholders is one of the key requirements our industry must meet in driving plant biotechnology forward and making the potential of this cutting-edge area of innovation transparent," he says.