Biotech crop coating could reduce or replace toxic farming methods

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In New Zealand, an associate professor at University of Canterbury has used biotechnology to produce a non-toxic, biodegradable coating that can be used to protect crops from disease.

“It is counterproductive to protect plants using toxic methods,” David Leung tells Scoop Independent News. “Even though you may provide security for a food source, you are still missing the mark if you have contaminated the environment you are growing the plants in during the process and delivering a food product with toxic residues. It’s not just the quantity of food that we care about; it is also about producing safe food that doesn’t harm the surrounding environment.”

Copper sulfate, for example, is necessary to farm avocados, but is an undesirable substance. “Right now, we have to use these undesirable substances or we simply would not be able to harvest enough food to support the world’s needs. This is why we need to have another option – a safer and more sustainable option,” he adds.

The coating can also be used after the harvest to protect the crop during storage and distribution. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about a third of food produced globally is wasted.