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Food, Health and Environmental Future Day: Biotechnology Drives Sustainability

June 6, 2018
On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, BIO hosted its Food, Health and Environmental Future Day at the 2018 BIO International Convention.

Kicking off the half-day of panel discussions was USDA’s Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach, who discussed, among other topics, his agency’s focus to “put together a regulatory framework for today and tomorrow.”

[caption id="attachment_28447" align="alignleft" width="275"] Greg Ibach, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs[/caption]

Under Secretary Ibach provided candid insights into USDA’s rulemaking process for the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and asked industry to “engage and embrace” in the rulemaking process (due to end on July 3, 2018) to ensure a regulatory system that works across the food and agriculture industry, from small startups to large corporations.

[caption id="attachment_28431" align="alignright" width="201"] Trace Sheehan, writer and producer, Food Evolution[/caption]

Ibach’s remarks were followed by a keynote address from Trace Sheehan, writer and producer of the film Food Evolution. Sheehan focused on the need for honest, constructive dialogue on either side of the GMO and food innovation debates to drive public acceptance of new technologies.

Sheehan’s focus on constructive dialogue set the stage perfectly for the panel to follow, which included food companies and retailers discussing how they are managing the wave of innovation taking place in the industry and driving consumer acceptance.

Kevin Diehl, Director of Global Regulatory Seed Platform at Corteva Agriscience, noted many of the innovations being developed in the industry are to solve-real world challenges and drive sustainability, such as disease-resistant plants. All the panelists acknowledged, however, that while solutions to real-world challenges will help in driving consumer acceptance of new food technologies, the gap is significant. Even so, Jason Garbell, Senior Director for New Business and Alliance Development at Novozymes, said that food companies “can’t think about innovation as a turn off.” Tammy Lee, CEO and President of Recombinetics, added “science is the key to solving sustainability challenges.”

Following the two-part dialogue, the program shifted focus to the food and agriculture innovation taking place in the convention’s backyard: the New England region. Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts provided opening remarks before four panelists from the region spoke about their use of biotechnology.

[caption id="attachment_28432" align="aligncenter" width="499"] Joanna Lidback, Dairy Farmer, Farm at Wheeler Mountain[/caption]

Joanna Lidback, a dairy farmer from Vermont, spoke passionately about the role biotechnology has on her family farm, allowing her to produce products more efficiently and sustain her business. Lidback noted that biotechnology is not just for large food companies and that the innovations in food and agriculture allow family farms like hers to thrive.

Following the “Biotech in our Backyard” panel, the program shifted back to a national perspective with investment experts sharing their insights on the funding ecosystem in agricultural technology.

In the discussion, Roger Wyse with Spruce Capital Partners underscored Kevin Diehl’s point in the food innovation dialogue, noting many agtech investors are looking to fund companies that address major challenges.

Finally, to close Food, Health and Environmental Future Day, Jerry Flint, Vice President, Global Initiatives and Sustainability at Corteva Agriscience, hosted a fireside chat alongside Governor Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota and Governor Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico. Both governors spoke about their region’s investment in biotechnology and the promise it brings to the future of their economies.

“If you’re not paying attention to agriculture, you’re not paying attention to the economy,” said Governor Daugaard.

[caption id="attachment_28433" align="aligncenter" width="389"] Right to Left: Governor Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota; Governor Ricardo Rossello, Puerto Rico; Jerry Flint, Corteva Agriscience[/caption]

Governor Rossello added that while Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, his region sees opportunity to further expand the economy through biotechnology. Governor Rossello noted that for every dollar his government invests in biotechnology, $5.36 comes back to the economy, representing a significant return on investment.

BIO’s 2018 Food, Health and Environmental Future Day included:

  • Greg Ibach, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, USDA

  • Phil Miller, Vice President for Global and Regulatory and Government Affairs, Monsanto

  • Trace Sheehan, Writer and Producer, Food Evolution

  • Natalie DiNicola, President, DiNicola LLC (moderator)

  • Tammy Lee, President and CEO, Recombinetics

  • Kevin Diehl, Director, Global Regulatory Seed Platform, Corteva Agriscience

  • Jason Garbell, Senior Director, New Business and Alliance Management, Novozymes

  • Jane Andrews, Corporate Nutrition Manager, Wegmans

  • Tony Freytag, Executive Vice President, Crunch Pak

  • Doug Cole, Senior Manager of Marketing and Biotech Affairs, Simplot Plant Sciences

  • Ron Stotish, President and CEO, AquaBounty Technologies (moderator)

  • Al Kriz, Strategic Alliance Manager Trait Research & Genomics, Bayer LifeHub

  • Victor Guzov, Lead, Protein Optimization and Evolution Team (POET), Monsanto

  • Mark Cooper, Plant Manager, Scotts Miracle-Gro

  • Joanna Lidback, Vermont dairy farmer, The Farm at Wheeler Mountain

  • Aaron Schacht, Vice President, Research and Development, Elanco Animal Health

  • Colin Steen, Managing Director, Syngenta Ventures

  • Roger Wyse, Spruce Capital Partners

  • Jerry Flint, Vice President, Global Initiatives and Sustainability, Corteva Agriscience (moderator)

  • Governor Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota

  • Governor Ricardo Rossello, Puerto Rico