Nov. 24 - An Israeli enterprise says it has developed technology that will boost global crop yields without relying on genetic modification. The company says it can replicate natural processes in its laboratories to produce bigger, stronger plants and hopes to have seeds ready for sale within three years. Tara Cleary reports.
This rice field represents the future of growing sturdier, sustainable crops for an increasingly hungry world. Or so says Israeli agritech firm, Kaiima. The company claims to have found a way to boost crop yields by replicating and accelerating a natural genetic phenomenon in the laboratory. Most plants evolve via a process call genome doubling, where over time, two species become one with a single genome comprising the strongest features of each parent. The weakest genes fall away, and the result is a plant with more robust genetic characteristics. But, in nature this duplication takes thousands of years. Kaiima's CEO, Doron Gal says his company has been able to accelerate the process and apply it to agriculture.. SOUNDBITE: DORON GAL, KAIIMA CEO, SAYING (English): "We found a new technology that lets us double the genome, get all the benefits of the stronger plant but maintaining the integrity of the DNA. And when you do that, then all the good things fall into place - the plant maintains its fertility and full seed set and you have a healthy plant to work with." Gal says scientists have been trying for decades to duplicate the plant genome, without success. SOUNDBITE: DORON GAL, KAIIMA CEO, SAYING (English): "The results were not very effective because the (artificial triggering) process damaged the inherent DNA, the original plant DNA and the result was plants without seeds, plants that may be bigger and stronger but without any yields and without genetic stability." And bigger, stronger crops means more food for the market. Kaiima won't reveal details of the technology, but the company has raised more than $65 million dollars from international investors for its research. Doron Gal says he hopes in the next few years, to turn that cash asset into bigger, stronger cash crops.