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Firms Look to Patent Climate-Ready Crops

Several of the world’s largest agricultural biotechnology companies are seeking hundreds of patents on gene-altered crops designed to withstand drought and other environmental stresses, part of a race for dominance in the potentially lucrative market for crops that can handle global warming, according to a report produced by the ETC Group, Patenting the “Climate Genes” …and Capturing the Climate Agenda.

Three companies — BASF of Germany, Syngenta of Switzerland and Monsanto of St. Louis — have filed applications to control nearly two-thirds of the climate-related gene families submitted to patent offices worldwide, according to the report.

The applications say that the new “climate ready” genes will help crops survive drought, flooding, saltwater incursions, high temperatures and increased ultraviolet radiation — all of which are predicted to undermine food security in coming decades. The report highlights the economic opportunities facing the biotechnology industry at a time of growing food insecurity, as well as the risks to its public image.

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