Dupont rises to population growth challenges

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags World population Food security

Dupont is eyeing global challenges as opportunitie, and is angling
its science and innovation to catering to global mega trends in
food, energy and security, say executives.

At the Stanford Bernstein Strategic Decisions conference last week, Charles Holliday told investors that the common denominator driving needs and demands in food production, energy in security is global population growth. The United Nations has predicted that world population will rise to an estimated 9bn people by 2050, from 6.5bn today. This is expected to place major strain on the current food supply model - particularly when it comes to dietary protein - with production needing to double on virtually the same land currently being used. Holliday's comments were echoed on Wednesday by VP for crop genetics research and development William Niebur, at the Merrill Lynch Agricultural Chemical Conference. "World population growth plus gross domestic product growth means increased demand for dietary protein,"​ said Niebur. "This global mega trend is a powerful incentive for farmers around the world to rapidly adopt technologies that will increase their productivity. We are helping increase productivity today through advanced plant breeding and biotechnology, but this is only just the beginning."​ The agritech execs said their company is delivering improvements in productivity and increasing returns from new products based on innovation. For instance, Holliday drew attention to the development of insect-resistant corn seed hybrids to improve productivity, quality and yield, and accelerate breeding step changes and genetic gain. DuPont has developed Rynaxypyr low-dosage insecticide, fungal resistant corn, a soil bean oil with dual herbicide tolerance, and stress-tolerant crops. "We have a rich pipeline of new products under development to enhance yield and nutrition through bioscience,"​ said Holliday. Last month DuPont urged biotechnology leaders globally to help safeguard the world's food supply by ensuring the conservation of crop diversity. Speaking at the BIO 2007 International Convention, the firm's Stephen Smith said that a genetic crop bank is crucial for maintaining food security worldwide. ​"Biotechnology will help us develop solutions to challenges that we have yet to imagine, but the potential will be limited without access to historic genetic resources," said Smith, a DuPont scientist and expert on plant genetic diversity. The firm has already pledged $1m to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an international fund charged with securing long-term funding for the support of genebanks and crop genetic diversity collections throughout the world. In his presentation, Neibur added that the global demand for grain is also being driven by increased biofuels use. And indeed, this is an area in which DuPont is making inroads. With the economic development of emerging markets, hydrocarbon resources are in more demand than ever, which adds climate change and other environmental factors. Saying that there is a strong need to rethink energy sourcing and usage, Holiday drew attention to the development of products and technologies for photovoltaics, biofuels like biobutanol and cellulosic ethanol , and bio-based materials. High performance bio-based materials also have a role in safety and security - since the company says they can help people "feel safe and secure at home"​. "Science has the potential to help feed the world, address global energy challenges and provide safety and more secure lives for people everywhere,"​ said Holliday, pledging that DuPont will continue to pursue "science-based solutions that meet consumer and market needs while providing value for our shareholders and society in general".

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