Oklahoma biosciences spurs innovation in agriculture industry

Mar 29, 2019 Issues: Agriculture

In 1798, Thomas Malthus theorized that the Earth’s population would far outpace its agricultural production, causing the human race to face an epidemic and undeniable catastrophe.  The “Malthusian Catastrophe”, is a theory that continues to be defied by mankind and our capacity for scientific and technological innovation.

Since the practice of agricultural production began, the human race has cultivated innovation to improve crop and livestock yield and health, further extending the human timeline. In 10,000 B.C., humans experimented with the cultivation of grains and developed irrigation practices in the Fertile Cresent located in the Middle East. In 3500 B.C. Egyptians crafted farming and hand tools such as the hoe and plow to provide for a more efficient way of working the land. In 200 A.D. the Roman Empire began the practice of crop rotation ensuring the longevity of plant soil in the region.

In 1910, German chemists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch developed the Haber-Bosch Process which industrialized the fertilization process sparking an event known as the “detonator of the population explosion”. And in 1914, an American farmer maize geneticist, Donald F. Jones, using the practical applications of earlier known geneticists, produced a high-yielding hybrid corn for America’s farmers.  

Since my first election to the United States House of Representatives, I have seen the impact of modern innovations too. Serving on both the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, I have had the opportunity to be a leading voice advancing bioscience research across the nation.

As a farmer and former Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, I understand the importance of how bioscience continues to enhance plant and agriculture techniques. From advanced soil profiling to gene edited seeds, advances in agricultural biosciences ensure that the Malthusian Catastrophe remains debunked.

Furthermore, these innovative biological techniques allow the American farmer to maximize their land while making the U.S. economy a thriving marketplace for the production and promotion of  new ideas and products.

For generations the United States has been a leader in global biosciences and as the current Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, I believe we must keep pace and set a research and regulatory framework that supports further innovation and ensures that the U.S. remains that global leader.

My home state of Oklahoma is no stranger to being a leader in the bioscience industry. Businesses and institutions such as Cytovance Biologics and Oklahoma State University have established themselves in the science field providing much needed research and development. With over 890 bioscience related businesses across the state, Oklahoma’s companies are pioneers in agricultural and industrial sciences. The state’s businesses have helped launch the economic boom in Oklahoma as bioscience businesses have increased employment by 13.4 percent from 2014 through 2016- a growth rate that far outpaces the national average of 4.4 percent.

Whether it’s in the labs of Oklahoma’s agricultural research institutions or in the farms stretching across the state’s landscape, Oklahomans are spurring innovation on a scale which our ancestors could have never imagined.

The future investment in bioscience is critical to the agricultural industry as bioengineering, but more specifically gene editing, will be the next steppingstone in our timeline. Since the dawn of man, humans have been improving and enhancing plant and animal genetics providing for a more innovative way of life, and will continue to do so for the benefit of mankind.

Just as Dr. Norman Borlaug developed new crop strains saving billions from famine, Oklahoma and the United States must remain a key innovator ushering in the next agriculture revolution.