Innovations like pesticides have long protected farmers and our food supply, but “productivity gains have slowed, threatening the nation’s food security,” says Vestaron Corporation scientist Kyle Schneider. Here's how biotechnology is helping to maintain crop yield in the face of a growing number of pests and regulations.
“5-20% of all U.S. crops are lost to insect damage, and in parts of the world without effective pest control, crop losses can exceed 50%,” writes Schneider in the National Academy of Engineering’s magazine. “If the current reduced rate of crop protection development continues, staggering crop losses may be anticipated.”
“Today’s yield growers need a constant supply of novel pesticides and chemicals,” as many of the remaining pesticides on the market are losing efficacy, leading to lower crop yield, Vestaron CEO Anna Rath told BIO in an exclusive interview last year.
Enter “peptide biologics”—or “protein-based pesticides that have the same efficacy as traditional synthetics,” while being safe for fish, birds, and mammals with no detrimental residues left behind, she continued.
“Our peptides are larger than traditional small molecule chemicals, and so they have a larger binding site to the target receptor that they hit,” said Rath. “We expect that it will take longer for us to develop resistance to peptide-based pesticides than to traditional small molecules.”
What about regulations? “We follow the same path as traditional chemistry,” said Rath, so the regulatory burdens aren’t too high. “Over time, we expect to face less and less as regulators become acquainted with the level of safety and efficacy of our technology.”
The bottom line: “Innovation is required to keep up with insect resistance,” concluded Schneider. With "the dual traits of sustainability and efficacy,” peptide-based pesticides are “ideal candidates to form the backbone of a green future in crop protection.”
Listen: Improving Food Systems: The Case of the Banana, featuring Vestaron CEO Anna Rath