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European Venture Licenses Biotech Drought-Resistant Traits

Corn (


Genective, a joint venture between German and French seed companies to develop new corn varieties, is licensing engineered gene science from the biotechnology company Arcadia Biosciences Inc. in Davis, California. Arcadia Biosciences will receive initial, milestone, and sales royalty payments under the agreement, but the dollar amount of the deal was not disclosed.

Arcadia Biosciences develops biotechnology solutions for agriculture, using tools of genetic engineering from life sciences research mainly employed in medicine. The company adapts discoveries from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, known as Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes or Tilling that identifies variations in genes from chemically mutated populations, including many crops. Arcadia says it combines high-throughput genomic screening with genetic engineering to develop crop traits from genetic variations that regulate specific molecular functions.

In this deal, Arcadia is licensing to Genective its technology called water use efficiency that produces crops needing less water to grow and thrive. Genective plans to apply that technology to the development of hybrid corn varieties that produce high yields in areas where water supplies are threatened by drought or under stress.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization calls drought a “slow, creeping natural disaster,” having a direct impact on crop, rangeland, and forest productivity. The agency cites projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showing increased intensity of droughts and storms over the next 30 to 50 years. In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, drought destroyed or damaged large portions of corn and soybean crops in the Midwest, leading to higher prices for those crops and thus higher animal feed prices that year, resulting in higher retail food prices for consumers.

Genective is a joint venture of Groupe Limagrain, a seed company owned by a French cereal grain growers cooperative, and KWS Group, a plant breeding company with 60 subsidiaries and affiliated companies based in Einbeck, Germany. The companies formed the venture in 2011 to develop and commercialize genetically altered corn. Arcadia Biosciences is already part of a Limagrain subsidiary in the U.S. that collaborates with American universities to develop and market new varieties of wheat.

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