Research Triangle Park (RTP) might not have the international renown that Silicon Valley has developed, but the North Carolina region has become a tech powerhouse in its own right - in crop science. A recent growth spurt promises intense new research with the potential to transform how -- and how well -- the world is fed, says an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly news magazine of the American Chemical Society.
Melody M. Bomgardner, a senior editor at C&EN, notes that the park, which is nestled between the higher education triad Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, has grown, thanks in part to a symbiotic relationship with the universities in those cities. Biotech firms in "The Triangle" have long relied on nearby graduates to fill their research ranks. Resident agricultural company Syngenta has benefited since 1984. Now the area has attracted companies with its friendliness to genetic engineering. In 2012, international giant Bayer CropScience relocated its seed business headquarters from France to the North Carolina hub. BASF made a similar move with its plant sciences base after meeting resistance in Europe to genetically modified crops.
The article says that since 2011 the area's firms have added 500,000 square feet of new research facilities and greenhouses to study important topics, such as pesticides against rootworm, threats to honeybees and drought tolerance. Although the countless projects are incredibly varied, the scientists' overall mission is unified. Altogether they add up to no small task -- helping the world double its agricultural output by 2050 when the population is expected to reach 9 billion.
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