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Ed Yeates ReportingIt could be the most significant technology ever developed to feed millions of people throughout the world. That's what plant scientists are saying about a breakthrough developed at Utah State University in Logan.
Plant scientists have been trying to find out how to do this for years. Now it looks like Utah State University has received the patent for its unique clonal seed process, which dramatically increases the yield of the staple food crops starving third world countries desperately need.
Dr. John Carman, Utah State University Plant Genetics: “It could be the most significant agricultural technology of our time.”
The technology, called Apomixis, genetically manipulates hybrid seeds so they can form asexually without the male gender. The result is a major staple crop that can clone itself over and over again with the same quality, and an even bigger yield. Dr. John Carman says it's sort of like giving a major food crop seed the same potential as a dandelion.
Dr. John Carman: "Every seed is an exact clone of each of the other seeds and of the mother dandelion. And that's not how normal plants reproduce."
This could be used in staple crops like corn, wheat and rice. A 30 percent yield on rice alone, for example, could feed an additional one billion people.
That's a 30 to 35 percent additional yield from clones of an already excellent crop - year after year, after year. The process potentially could feed billions of people now starving in third world countries, because those countries currently cannot afford to manually reproduce complicated high quality hybrid seeds every year.
And it's not just third world countries that pay the price.
Dr. John Carman: "I think it's around 2.4 billion dollars - and that's what farmers pay seed companies to buy their seed in the United States."
USU researchers are now working hand in hand with a spin-off company in Idaho called Gemini Life Sciences to make Apomixis a commercial reality. In addition to corn, wheat and rice, the process could dramatically boost yields for barley and soybeans as well.
With patent rights now, Utah State University could benefit substantially from the technology's royalties.