WASHINGTON, June 15, 2016 - Biotechnology may be a boon to agriculture, but it hasn’t stopped DuPont Pioneer from continuing to use conventional breeding, as well, the company’s president said in an interview with Agri-Pulse.
“We do conventional breeding now, we did conventional breeding 90 years ago when we started, but we continue to bring new science and modern technology to conventional breeding to make it better, faster, and more productive all the time,” Paul Schickler said.
As far as what the company will do, and where, “We’re going to respond to demand signals,” he said, taking note of the different regulatory environments around the world. “In the United States and Canada, the conventional, non-GMO business is pretty small.”
But in Europe, which is non-GMO, “We’re the market leader. We can continue to provide solutions and service to farmers even when GMO’s have not been deregulated.”
In other areas of the globe, biotechnology is obviously a huge part of the future of agriculture.
“We’ve got the leading insect control technology in Brazil,” he said referring to the company’s Leptra corn hybrid that was introduced in Brazil at the beginning of this year and was recently approved for use in Argentina.
Schickler, who has led DuPont Pioneer since 2007, also pointed to more growth opportunities in Asia. “Philippines has deregulated biotechnology,” he said. “Vietnam is in the process of deregulating. So are Indonesia and Pakistan. So those countries either are already adopting biotechnology or within the next year will do so.”
Domestically, Schickler said the company is in the middle of a multiyear process transitioning its soybean genetics to Roundup Ready 2 Yield and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend, the former conferring glyphosate resistance and the latter resistance to both glyphosate and dicamba.
Another product that DuPont Pioneer plans to launch in 2017 is Qrome, a corn hybrid with below-ground insect resistance to corn rootworm and the European corn borer. “Over several years of wide-area research testing, Qrome products have outperformed legacy corn-rootworm trait technology by an average of 4 to 7 bushels per acre,” the company said earlier this year.
Schickler was in Washington, D.C., to help release the Global Food Security Index, sponsored by DuPont and prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The latest report found slight upticks in food security in most regions of the world, but also found that between 2015 and 2016, more countries experienced declines in their scores for national nutritional standards than improvements.
DuPont Pioneer is working to develop higher-yielding hybrids of wheat and rice, Schickler said.
“Those crops have been neglected,” he said. “If you look at their yield curves, as compared to corn and soybeans, they lag behind. Our focus is going to be on improving yield levels of wheat and rice, turning those crops into hybrid crops, improving their agronomic characteristics, and enabling more reliable seed production. Those are tasks that will take a number of years before getting into biotechnology.”
Schickler briefly addressed the proposed merger between Dow Chemical and DuPont. He said that DuPont Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences, which would form one of three separate, independent companies, “have each been envisioning how we might come together more closely. The fact that this is occurring is right in line with our hopes or aspirations were for the future. It’s a tremendous fit.”
“We’ll be able to drive the science on insect control much more effectively as a combined organization,” Schickler said.
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