Environmental Stewardship
Environmental Stewardship
Agricultural Biotechnology
Agricultural Biotechnology
Benefits of Agricultural Biotechnology
Syngenta Crop Solutions - In the Field
Syngenta Crop Solutions - Beyond the Field
Scientific Studies on the Impacts of Biotechnology
Learn More about Plant Biotechnology
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Agricultural Biotechnology at Syngenta - An Opportunity for Environmental Stewardship

Agricultural biotechnology offers an excellent opportunity for environmental stewardship and improving the use of natural resources. Crops developed using agricultural biotechnology provide solutions that not only provide benefits in the form of reduced crop loss and improved crop quality, but also beyond the field in the form of real environmental benefits.

To find out more about Agricultural Biotechnology, choose one of the links in the navigation box.

1. Biotechnology

Biotechnology is a term that describes various techniques that use living organisms to create new products and processes. Biotechnology is not new. Indeed, for centuries, people have been using and refining biological processes, such as fermentation, to improve food products such as bread, cheese, beer, yogurt, and wine.

With advances in science, the tools used in biotechnology are becoming more refined. Now scientists can precisely identify some of the individual genes responsible for producing particular characteristics, such as the shape or color of a flower or even of a person’s hair.

Made up of DNA, genes determine every characteristic of living things. They are found in almost every cell of every organism, be it a microorganism, plant, animal or human. As more genes are identified, they can be used to develop useful new products.

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2. Agricultural Biotechnology

When the tools of biotechnology are applied to agriculture, it is termed agricultural biotechnology, plant biotechnology, or plant genetic modification.

For centuries, researchers have been crossbreeding plants to produce crops with particular desired characteristics, also known as traits. However, as each plant has tens of thousands of genes, the process of traditional breeding can be very time consuming and imprecise.  With agricultural biotechnology, scientists can now quickly and precisely identify some of the individual genes responsible for producing particular plant traits.

These new technologies have opened doors to certain improvements that were not possible before. Through biotechnology, a single trait can be targeted for transfer to a plant. Researchers can access novel traits, such as insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, or an essential vitamin, from crops and other organisms and insert these traits into important agronomic crops, providing improved crops for farmers and consumers

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3. What are the benefits of Agricultural Biotechnology?

Since the introduction of the first crops developed through biotechnology, growers have adopted these crops at an increasing rate.

Crops improved through biotechnology offer direct benefits to growers in the form of simplified farm management practices and improved farm profitability. A real example of such a product is Bt corn.

Another objective of agricultural biotechnology research is improving the quality and nutritional benefits of food crops. While this research is still in its infancy, early promise is seen from crops such as "Golden Rice," which could help provide pro-vitamin A to the diets of people in developing countries, or vegetables with increased levels of dietary antioxidants that may reduce cancer and other human diseases.

The number of scientific studies examining the impacts of biotechnology continues to grow.  The evidence is building that crop biotechnology provides clear benefits, not only for the grower and the consumer, but also for the environment.

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4. Syngenta Crop Solutions - In the Field

Preventing insect feeding damage

One of the early successes of biotechnology has been the ability to insert genes from a naturally occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into corn, cotton, and other crops to impart internal protection from insect damage. For many farmers, Bt crops are proving to be a valuable tool for integrated pest management (IPM) programs by giving growers new pest control choices. Download a copy of our Bt corn brochure "Kernels of Gold" here.

Improving weed control programs

Weeds reduce crop yield and quality, while raising costs to the grower and consumer. For decades, growers have used a combination of tillage (plowing) and herbicides to control weeds in crops. Advances in biotechnology have made weed control more effective and more economical in soybeans and other crops by producing plants that are resistant to broad-spectrum herbicides such as glyphosate, which would otherwise damage the crop. Just as important, herbicide tolerant crops can help to reduce tillage that can harm the environment through increased soil erosion.

Preventing crop loss to plant disease

Agricultural crops are exposed to numerous fungi and other sources of disease that can destroy crops in the field. Researchers at Syngenta have developed in-field diagnostic tests for crop disease to help farmers properly identify and treat problems earlier. Research is also underway to increase the activity of a plant's own disease defense systems. Scientists are also exploring ways to insert new genes into specific crops to impart immunity to key plant diseases. This multi-tiered approach holds the promise of more effective control of plant diseases in the future.

Protecting the environment

Biotechnology provides solutions to growers that can directly benefit the environment through improved farm management practices. These improved farm management practices can reduce soil erosion and ensure environmental sustainability.

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5. Syngenta Crop Solutions - Beyond the Field

Real benefits of plant biotechnology can also be realized beyond the field.

The needs of our growing global population will continue to put pressure on agriculture in future decades. Scientists at Syngenta hope their efforts will provide valuable new tools for farmers to rise to the challenge.

More Efficient Production of Renewable Fuel

As more focus is put on renewable sources of power, many countries are looking to agriculture to supply energy. Corn ethanol is produced by using an enzyme (amylase) to break down starch into sugars, which are then fermented by yeast to produce alcohol. Syngenta has a project underway to produce corn enhanced through biotechnology to express high levels of amylase. By using high amylase corn for ethanol production, it is estimated that improved process efficiency will lead to substantial improvements in production. These first corn varieties have an anticipated launch in the US in 2010.

Animal Feed for Increased Nutritional Benefits, Processing Efficiency and Pollution Reduction

Phosphorus is essential for healthy growth and bone development in pigs and poultry. While phosphorus is present in animal feed in the form of phytic acid, it is not readily digested. Adding supplemental phytase, which is commonly done in livestock operations, can break down phytic acid and make more of the nutrient available to the animal. However, much animal feed is supplied in a pelleted form. If phytase is applied to the feed before the high-temperature pelleting process, thermal stress can lead to a loss of efficiency and, ultimately, a reduction in the amount of phosphorus available to the animal.  In addition, manure rich in phytic acid can be a source of pollution if not managed properly.

Through our Syngenta Animal Nutrition group, Syngenta offers Quantum™ Phytase, a second generation phytase additive. Because it has high intrinsic thermostability, Quantum Phytase better survives the pelleting process, allowing customers to apply it to the feed before, rather than after, pelleting. Equally important, Quantum Phytase’s biochemistry matches animal physiology in a way that is new to the industry, not only maximizing the bioavailability of phosphorus but going further by consistently providing better uptake of other nutrients such as energy and amino acids. Syngenta research shows that the result is better overall bird performance and feed cost savings.

Syngenta is also working on a second-generation product grown directly in corn.

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6. Scientific Studies on the Impacts of Biotechnology

At Syngenta, we want to increase awareness about the impacts of biotechnology. Therefore, we have worked with industry partners to develop a list of some of the scientific publications that directly examine the benefits and risks of biotechnology. Some of these publications are available on the Internet, others are available through your local library. A list of some key studies is available here.

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7. Learn more about Plant Biotechnology

If you would like to learn more about plant biotechnology, there are many useful websites that provide information.

To learn more about plant biotechnology, visit the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI).

To learn about the products that are currently approved for field testing or available commercially or scientific studies relating to these products, visit the searchable database at AgBios.

To learn more about how agricultural biotechnology can be used in developing countries, visit the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) or the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) database.

To learn more about the government regulations affecting agricultural biotechnology, visit the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

To view some of the scientific studies on the impacts of biotechnology, view a list.

To view a list of publications addressing agricultural biotechnology, see the pdf by the ILSI International Food Biotechnology Committee.

To learn about some of our biotechnology research, visit Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc.

To read recent news articles on biotechnology, visit Check Biotech.

Also visit the biotechnology section of to learn more about biotechnology at Syngenta.

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