The movement away from petroleum and into a bio-based economy is just beginning and Iowa is positioned to be right in the center of it, DuPont executive James Collins said last week.

"Iowa is really in a perfect place to take advantage of the opportunities of this new economy," Collins said at a conference in Ankeny sponsored by the Iowa Biotechnology Association.

Iowa, he said, has unprecedented levels of expertise in this area and good partnerships already in place.
Iowa’s leadership, including Gov. Terry Branstad, Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham and other lawmakers, are also big supporters of bio-based initiatives, Collins noted.

He cited the Iowa Legislature’s recent passage of a bill to provide up to $10 million annually in state tax credits for the renewable chemical industry.

Although petroleum prices have fallen in the past year, Collins said the push continues toward a renewable, bio-based economy, where plant-based materials become the building blocks for fuel and other key materials.

"We are already living beyond the earth’s replacement capacity now, and earth population continues to grow," he said.

More with less

The key, Collins said, is finding a way to produce more with decreased inputs. And biotech crops are a prime example, because they increase yield without boosting the need for fertilizer, fuel or water, he said.

"It’s all about accomplishing more while using less, and biotech helps us do that," Collins said.

Increasingly challenging growing conditions in the United States and around the world are making biotech seeds even more important, Collins said. In many cases, products developed from advanced sciences are an improvement over the traditional product they are replacing, Collins said.

He cited high-oleic soybean oils, like DuPont’s Plenish, which have have improved health benefits for consumers. In addition, researchers are discovering enzymes in nature that help improve industrial processes, he said.