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Making the Case for Ag Innovation

June 21, 2017
Modern ag is multi-faceted, innovative, and above all, critical for feeding a growing population. At BIO’s 2017 International Convention, the Modern Ag Innovation track on June 20 featured industry leaders and academia who delved into the innovative tactics being used to improve agriculture both in the United States and around the world.

Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, kicked off the program with a keynote presentation that touched on some of the current issues facing agriculture: namely, communicating the value of modern ag innovation to consumers.

“Farmers have been adapting forever,” he noted. “But we have to make sure that the 98 percent [of people] that are consumers around the world understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

“Let’s continue to work together and remember that just developing products and coming up with the technology is just the beginning. We have to work together as an industry – the developers, the marketers, and the practitioners – to make sure that we can advocate together because all those other people out there, they depend on all of us.”

During the first panel of the day, biotech leaders explained the “systems approach” they’re using to solve problems in plant and animal agriculture. A second panel focused on biologicals, developed from naturally-occurring microbes, which are emerging as an exciting new area for development in modern agriculture.

A final panel discussed how biology-based ag innovations help society both mitigate climate change and adapt to the impacts as they occur.

From water-optimized corn that can provide consistent yields even during drought, to nitrogen use efficiency technology, ag innovators are using new technologies to combat climate change.

As Raj Ketkar of Arcadia Biosciences said, there are two major challenges for ag innovators: the technical challenge of testing and analysis to develop products, and anti-GM sentiment impacting the time it takes to gain approvals and bring these products to market.

But as Hadyn Parry of Intrexon noted, the industry can combat that anti-ag sentiment by working to actively make the case for innovation.

“It’s completely wrong to say the public won’t accept GMO. They will. You just talk to them. You’re never going to please absolutely everybody, but you’ve got to get out there and talk to people.”

Speakers included:

  • Paul Wenger, President, California Farm Bureau Federation

  • Corey Huck, Vice President, Business Development, AgTech Accelerator

  • Aaron Schacht, Vice President, Global Research and Development, Elanco

  • Robert Reiter, Research & Development Integration Planning Lead, Monsanto

  • Vijay Vijayaraghavan, CEO, Sathquru Management Consultants

  • Desmond Jimenez, Vice President, Product Development and Manufacturing, New Leaf Symbiotics

  • Amit Vasavada, Senior Vice President, R&D and Chief Technology Officer, Marrone Bio Innovations

  • Matt Ashby, Research Fellow, DuPont Pioneer Taxon

  • Doyle Karr, Director of Biotechnology Public Policy, DuPont

  • Hadyn Parry, Vice President, Corporate Development Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), Intrexon Corporation

  • Oliver Peoples, President and CEO, Yield10 Bioscience

  • Raj Ketkar, CEO, Arcadia Biosciences

  • Bob Bensen, Trait Genetics Lead, Syngenta

  • Hugh Welsh, President & General Counsel, DSM North America

  • Dennis Donohue, Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology