Exports by Brazilian agribusiness totaled US$ 7.08 billion in november alone, amounting to US$ 89.08 billion in the first 11 months of 2017, for year-over-year growth of 13%. Agribusiness exports contributed 44.5% of Brazil’s trade balance in the period.
These numbers point to the economic significance of a sector that is on the radar of Brazilian science – so much so that a partnership announced this month assembles three Brazilian institutions to expand and intensify research on advanced biotechnology for the adaptation of agricultural crops to climate change.
The São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and the University of Campinas (Unicamp) will invest $ 32.2 million in the next ten years in the Genomics for Climate Change Research Center (GCCRC) to develop RD&I activities from gene discovery to proof of concept. The result will be the transfer of biotechnology assets to the agricultural sector via genomics, genetics and molecular biology tools such as genetic engineering, genome editing, and whole-genome association studies.
In addition to investment by the three institutions, the GCCRC project calls for research collaboration with the agricultural sector to develop new biotechnology products for the market. In the university sector it will also count on collaboration with researchers in the United States (University of Delaware), Belgium (Universiteit Gent), Spain (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid), the United Kingdom (University of Nottingham) and Australia (University of Western Australia).
“The mission of this engineering center is not just to do high-quality basic research but to deliver technology with the potential for transfer to the productive sector,” said Paulo Arruda, a professor at Unicamp and principal investigator at GCCRC, which will be hosted by Unicamp’s Technology & Science Hub.
For Embrapa president Maurício Lopes, the partnership will permit the development of a national platform dedicated to the pursuit of more advanced knowledge on the frontier of biology, helping Brazil make the necessary effort to adapt its agriculture increasingly to the reality of climate change. “We plan to use Embrapa's vast network to validate future prototypes of these new biotechnology assets,” Lopes said. GCCRC inherits the legacy of the Mixed Unit for Research in Genomics Applied to Climate Change, a joint venture established by Embrapa and Unicamp in 2012.
“If any area is developing rapidly, it’s this one,” said Fapesp president José Goldemberg on the research to be conducted at the new center. “And it’s important for us to become highly competent in this field.”