Syngenta has said it intends to invest $71m in building a new biotechnology research facility next to its existing research campus in North Carolina, to advance development of new crop traits.
Until now, the company’s research has focused primarily on soybean and corn traits, including a recently launched insect-resistant corn, a corn variety for improved yields in dry conditions, and its Enogen-brand corn for easier conversion to ethanol. At the new research site, Syngenta said it would expand its focus to other crops such as sugar cane, cereals, rice and vegetables. It also cited specific traits that it intends to work on, including those for better tolerance of climatic variability, drought resistance, better crop productivity, and plant performance.
Syngenta Head of Research and Development Sandro Aruffo said: “This investment demonstrates our commitment to R&D and to remain at the forefront of plant genetics research. The advanced technologies that will be implemented at this new site will accelerate our R&D efforts to develop agronomic traits that will enable crops to better withstand complex environmental challenges."
Syngenta said that construction of the new state-of-the-art facility at its Research Triangle Park site is due to begin this month and is expected to be fully operational by the second half of 2012. In addition to research laboratories, the plant will also include specific growth environments, such as climate-controlled greenhouses and precision growth chambers, the company said.
Global area planted with biotech crops increased by 10 percent last year to reach 148m hectares, making it the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. Commercial planting of genetically modified (GM) crops began in 1996, with 1.7m hectares planted that year, and over 15 years of cultivation, the total area devoted to GM crops has increased 87-fold.
The United States still uses more GM seeds than any other country.