seed world international Edition 2011
International Edition 2011
Improving the Global Movement of Seed
A Tool for Sustainable Agriculture International
INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS Today, seed has to do a lot more than just look good. Increased marketplace competition, new high-value genetic traits and more effective seed treatment products often require individualized seed-enhancement solutions. There’s no one better at developing innovative solutions to colorant, appearance, dust control, plantability and performance challenges than the Becker Underwood seed-enhancement professionals. We’re always thinking ahead to meet the needs of a growing and ever-changing global seed industry.
Insights on Seed By Julie McNabb
The Future of plant breeding Social media The Rise of Specialized Trait Developers
Secretary General, Marcel Bruins, Explains How the ISF is Furthering the Seed Industry
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International Edition 2011 Published By Issues Ink www.issuesink.com USA Canada P.O. Box 360 Suite 301 1395-A S. Columbia Road 313 Pacific Avenue Grand Forks, ND 58201 Winnipeg, MB R3A 0M2 Publisher Shawn Brook email@example.com Editor Julie McNabb firstname.lastname@example.org staff writers Andrea Geary, Lindsay Hoffman, Julienne Isaacs, Shannon Schindle Marketing Craig Armstrong email@example.com Paige Collette firstname.lastname@example.org Pat Fenn email@example.com Amanda Vargek firstname.lastname@example.org Creative Wade Clisby, Lesley Nakonechny, Ashley Somerville
saying about the
challengesand opportunities in
the seed sector.
Production Erica Marks contributors Marcel Bruins, Garlich von Essen, Marc Cool, Robynne M. Anderson, Teresa Falk, Kari Belanger, Dick Hagen, Rosalie I. Tennison Editorial Board Julie Douglas, American Seed Trade Association Wayne Gale, Stokes Seeds
R.B. Halaby, AgriCapital Betty Jones-Bliss, Purdue University Peter Marks, Germain’s Technology Group – N.A. Bill Romp, Becker Underwood John Schoenecker, Harris Moran Seed Co. Jim Schweigert, GroAlliance Karen Withers, Pennington Seed Ron Wulfkuhle, GreenLeaf Genetics
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M A G A Z I N E
ISF11 04 An International Voice
The International Seed Federation has been hard at work since last year’s World Seed Congress.
08 Novel Food,
New Breeding Techniques, GMOs …
An overview of Europe’s seed industry from the secretary general of the European Seed Association.
12 H ow We Can Feed the World
Adoption and proper use of new technologies will be critical in helping to feed a growing world population.
18 G iant Views of the Industry
Our experts offer insights into the issues affecting your seed business today.
24 Giant Highlights
Unique topics and interesting facts shared by seed professionals from around the world.
28 Giant Biographies Meet the people behind our Giant Views of the Industry commentary.
30 Nutrition Makes News
Discussions about diet and health are growing louder and farmers play a key role.
36 Seed Treatment: A Tool for Sustainable Agriculture
This valuable form of crop protection is becoming more environmentally- and userfriendly.
40Seed Health and
Seed Trade Issues
The international seed industry is making progress in harmonizing seed trade regulations around the world.
46 Seed Industry
Applauds Adoption of International Treaties The adoption of two important treaties in Nagoya, Japan last fall has left the plant science industry encouraged about access and benefit sharing and liability and redress.
52Europe’s Debate on GMOs
Recent announcements regarding the European Union’s policy on genetically modified organisms has raised the question—is the EU getting closer to accepting GM crops?
56The Mice Become Mightier
The world’s biggest seed companies are busy partnering with an increasing number of small and mid-size trait developers who might just change the future of the industry.
62A Dying Breed
What can the seed industry do today to ensure there isn’t a shortage of plant breeders in the future?
66The Second Siege
The Global Crop Diversity Trust is campaigning to save a forage, fruit and berry seedbank in Russia from real estate developers.
70 Expanding the Toolkit
Social media tactics are helping seed companies reach out to growers, and communicate in a fresh new way.
76Plants Do it Too
The power of plant breeding needs to be constantly communicated to everyone around us.
80 Keeping Track of
Global Information Effective communication is key to overcoming many of the challenges the global seed community faces today.
84 Saving Seed for the Future
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault celebrated its third anniversary this spring—and it now holds the most diverse collection of seeds anywhere on the planet.
88 World Status
A look at seed developments happening around the globe.
92 Cross Pollination Market statistics, liability and redress, protecting pollinators and other issues affecting the seed industry.
94 Where on the Web
An online module on plant genetic resources, a video on the global status of biotech crops and other online resources for the seed industry.
96 By the Numbers
Interesting facts and figures about Ireland’s agriculture industry.
International Seed Federation staff work together to promote the interests and image of the seed industry.
An International Voice What has the International Seed Federation been working on since Calgary? The Congress The annual ISF World Seed Congress is the major event for the global seed industry. Between 1,200 and 1,500 seed-people gather from around the world, and a large number settle down at the tables in the large trading room to do their trading. Estimates indicate that about 3 billion USD is traded during the ISF World Seed Congress. This means there is also a huge responsibility on the ISF Secretariat to ensure good quality of the facilities from year to year. Each congress venue has its own peculiarities, and compromises are sometimes unavoidable. But rest assured that the ISF staff, in close cooperation with the National Organizing Committee, will do everything in their power to guarantee that participants have a good place to work and, after each long day, a place to talk and have a drink with fellow seed-people. The satisfaction surveys that we sent out after the Antalya and Calgary congresses indicate a large majority was very satisfied with the quality of each congress. The Secretariat has also been upgrading its service to ISF members with regards to registration, accommodation and social events, and at the same time, making sure that only members can benefit from the congress. This tighter enforcement also means that we need to reject certain congress registrations by non-members. 4
Trade Rules The trade rules are at the very origin of ISF. The first International Seed Trade Congress was held in London in July 1924. On the last day of that congress, the assembled participants adopted the International Contract to Apply to Agricultural Seeds. Over the decades, this â€œmodel contractâ€? turned into rules, and was changed several times. After so many changes to the text, participants felt it would be wise to rewrite the trade rules entirely. During the past year, the Trade and Arbitration Rules Committee has held two two-day meetings to work on this revision. At the Belfast congress, these draft rules will be discussed and, in the period after the congress, all comments will be incorporated. It is hoped that at the 2012 congress in Rio de Janeiro, ISF can adopt a new set of trade rules. Intellectual Property There have been many developments in plant breeding, the seed industry and intellectual property which have triggered the wish to start a deep review of the ISF position paper on intellectual property. The ISF Intellectual Property Committee has worked on the paper, the ISF Breeders Committee has given feedback and great progress has been made. There is agreement on many topics; however, there are a few remaining open items that Seed World
require more discussion, such as the issue of access to patented germplasm. In meetings after the Belfast congress, discussion will continue to try to achieve consensus on the wording. Seed Enhancement Seed enhancement (including seed processing and cleaning, application of plant protection products and other active materials, and seed coating, disinfection and priming) is increasingly becoming an important part of the seed business. The ISF Seed Treatment and Environment Committee has been closely following developments in several countries with regards to regulations in this field. Discussions are aimed at better defining the STEC’s scope, and promoting the image of seed enhancement and benefits of seed-applied technologies. Biodiversity Last October, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization was adopted. ISF was present at many of the tough negotiations that spanned more than six years. The new protocol sets the terms on how countries will permit access to genetic resources and share benefits arising from their use. In part thanks to the relentless efforts of ISF, it was agreed that the crops which are mentioned in Annex 1 of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture are exempted from the Nagoya protocol. ISF welcomes the protocol, but the text is ambiguous in several respects, and the effect the protocol will have on facilitating access to genetic resources not covered by the international treaty remains to be seen. “Variety is Life” Last year at the congress in Calgary, ISF launched a video promoting biodiversity, called “Variety is Life.” The video was well received within and outside the seed industry. The Convention on Biological Diversity has referred to the ISF video on its website, and the video has been watched on YouTube well over 2,600 times in over 90 countries. The video is also available on the ISF website, and several companies and associations have embedded it into their own websites. This is great exposure for the work of the seed industry. We would not have been able to reach this penetration into so many countries with a brochure or press release. Communication ISF also has the task of communicating with an audience outside the seed industry. This is an audience that we have not targeted much in the past, but too often information on agriculture and the seed industry comes from just one side of the spectrum, and does not always carry a positive message. We need to inform the public about the positive side of the seed industry, including its efforts to adapt to and mitigate global challenges such as a growing population, changing diet, climate change, energy and water shortages, and so on. It is important to mention that the seed industry provides food security, and we should not be shy to promote that. In the past year, ISF has been reaching out, more ISF 2011
than it has formerly, to use other means of communication. For example, ISF is one of the 12 contributors to the UN Rio Conventions calendar for 2011, and in June 2011, ISF will feature prominently in the official G8 publication. Intergovernmental Organizations The Secretariat has continued its strong participation in the meetings of inter-governmental organizations, such as CBD, FAO, IPPC, ISTA, OECD, UPOV and WIPO. ISF is considered the number one partner representing the seed industry, and many interventions have been made during those meetings. For example, during UPOV meetings in April 2011 ISF was mentioned more than 90 times in the UPOV documents, underlining our very active participation. Recently, ISF was invited to become a partner organisation to the IPPC, as a result of which linkages between ISF and the IPPC are highlighted on the International Phytosanitary Portal at www.ippc.int. In a recent letter to ISF, the Bureau of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture highlighted how implementation of the treaty was important for improved access to plant genetic resources, to enhance benefit sharing and conservation. At the fourth session of the IT governing body in March 2011, ISF took the opportunity to inform delegates of the efforts undertaken by the seed industry that contribute to the treaty’s goals. Together with the Bureau and the IT Secretariat, ISF will look at innovative approaches for implementing the treaty, including the most effective involvement in enhancing the Benefit Sharing Fund projects. In December 2010, ISF participated in the 16th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework on Climate Change. In two video interviews, ISF underlined contributions the seed industry is making towards adaptation and mitigation of climate change. The videos can be viewed on Climate Change TV. World Seed Project In September 2009 the very successful World Seed Conference was held in Rome, co-organized by FAO, ISTA, OECD, UPOV and ISF. These five organizations have continued their discussions and started the WORLD SEED PROJECT, which aims to strengthen the seed sector in developing countries. The first countries have been approached about their involvement in the project, and once there is a firm commitment from their governments, donors will be sought. New Record Set As of January 1, 2011, ISF had 217 members in 75 countries. In recent years, many small- and medium-sized companies have joined ISF, especially in those countries where there are no national seed associations. This is the first time that ISF has surpassed 200 members. Many of these members are national seed associations with tens or hundreds of seed companies as their members, so ISF represents many thousands of seed companies around the world. This year we have received over 25 new members’ applications, some from new countries such as The Philippines, Paraguay and Ukraine. Marcel Bruins 5
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Novel Food, New Breeding Techniques, GMOs … Is there any future for innovation in Europe’s agriculture industry?
Garlich v. Essen, Secretary General European Seed Association
n behalf of the European Seed Association, we are very excited for the 2011 World Seed Congress in Belfast, Ireland. As the secretary general of ESA, I’d like to take some time to discuss the challenges facing the seed industry in Europe. Years of talks between European Parliament and EU member states on a new regulation on novel foods finally collapsed on March 28, 2011, leaving the issue on how to regulate the development and marketing of food products resulting from innovative technologies wide open. The main reason for the breakdown was Parliament’s insistence on a ban on food from cloned animals and their descendants, motivated by its perception of a negative public attitude towards the technology highlighted in a recent “Eurobarometer” survey. Member states and Commission argued that such a ban would be impossible to implement and enforcement would be technically unfeasible in practice, irrespective of possible EU labelling provisions, as third countries would not apply the same approach to such products.
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As well, a ban on imports would not be compatible with the international trade rules that the EU has signed—with the European Parliament’s explicit consent. The failed negotiations now leave the old Novel Food Regulation in place, which had been put up for revision mainly to provide more legal certainty and to promote innovation in food production. The failure of talks also means that proposed rules in other areas, such as innovative breeding techniques and nano-materials, will not (yet) come into force. But there are worrying signals that this may only be a matter of time: experts from EU member states are currently discussing the regulatory status and possible extension of requirements for numerous modern plant breeding techniques. The Commission has been quick to state that a new proposal to regulate novel foods, i.e. to subject them to stringent safety assessments, authorization, and possibly traceability and labelling requirements, will soon be put forward. This policy approach is in line with the EU’s ongoing debate over the use of biotechnology in general, and specifically, GM technology in its agri-food production chain. Here as well, science plays a minor role in the discussion. While evidence of the safety and usefulness of GM crops is literally growing on 150 million hectares each year, Europe finds ever-new reasons to deny its breeders, farmers, growers and food producers access to this technology. All in all, it seems there is little hope for innovation in European plant breeding and crop production. At the same time, the EU continues to promote its general objective of becoming the most innovative knowledge-based bio-economy on the planet, and continues to co-fund numerous R&D projects in science and technology. Europe’s plant breeding industry always insisted that only such novel products that are substantially different from existing ones should be regulated. We still fear that science, practicality and fair competition will be pushed to the sidelines by regulatory overkill concepts. If Europe’s plant breeders become subject to new requirements and rules wherever they make use of modern breeding techniques in the development of new plant varieties, regardless of the nature of the final product, innovation will be stigmatized and its competitive advantages undermined. ESA has repeatedly underlined that such EU requirements would not be enforceable for imports as most third-party countries don’t see a need for specific rules. But it is also 10
impossible to detect or differentiate many of the new products. It would thus be misleading to single out some products simply because of their production technology, even when the endproducts are exactly the same. As an industry, we fear that the EU approach will effectively discourage innovation and, after GM crops, will drive yet another set of modern technologies out of Europe—only to see the resulting products being imported without such rules and associated costs applied to them. Together with farmers and public research institutes, ESA and a number of individual plant breeding companies are trying to address the consequences that such loss and lack of innovation will have on the entire EU agri-food chain and for European consumers. This will also affect the EU’s contribution to the resolutions of some of the greatest challenges of our times: the preservation and sustainable use of natural resources to produce more food at affordable prices for the growing world population. “More and better” are the key words in this challenge, and genetic progress is the key to meeting it. The European Technology Platform’s Plants for the Future hosted a high-level conference in the middle of May that brought lead i ng ex per t s, business representatives and policy makers together in Brussels to address these and many other points in the common quest to promote plant breeding innovation. However, more than a single event is needed to change the tide. Plant breeders, farmers and food producers must continue to join forces in explaining the need for, and crucial role of, innovation in their commitments to sustainability, safety, and their contributions to the greening of our economies, improvement of food security and preservation of resources. They must also advocate for a suitable regulatory requirement that promotes such innovations instead of hindering them or rendering them economically unviable. Only if we succeed, will we be able to free the impressive innovative capacity of Europe’s plant scientists, plant breeders, farmers and food producers. And only if we accomplish this, will Europe stand a chance in meeting its self-proclaimed policy objective and truly become the knowledge-based bio-economy of the 21st century. Garlich von Essen
There is a need to adapt and adopt new technology in agriculture.
uch has been said in agricultural and policy circles about the need to feed the world. In fact, the real opportunity we have in the seed industry is to provide the tools for global food production. Along with seed, these tools include agronomic technology to grow, harvest, store, process and distribute crops. We can take some big steps towards a truly sustainable global food supply by using science, and also release farmers in developing nations from the confines of subsistence farming.
How We Can Feed the World ISF 2011
The biggest challenges we face are, respectively: • Rising global population; • Limited land area on which to grow food; • Climate change, which affects agricultural output; and • Unequal distribution of wealth and access to food around the world. Global Population Currently, we share planet Earth with just under seven billion people. The United Nations expects this figure to grow by at least another two billion by the year 2050, an increase of around 30 percent. It is generally accepted that, as the population increases and people in emerging regions change their diets and require increased food sources, agricultural output will need to double to meet this demand. Crop yields are still increasing as a result of new variety development, but the growth rate has slowed with today’s technologies. New technologies hold the promise to dramatically increase this growth rate again, as a “next step” in our agricultural development. Land Area Of the world’s total land area, 40 percent is now devoted to food production, with one-third used for food crops and the rest for animal husbandry. In the developed world, land is being taken out of agricultural production. In the United States, since the 1970s, urbanization of land has doubled, leaving less land available for farming. Agricultural land needs intensification to maintain high production rates, and with technological advances, productivity is rising. In contrast, land is being converted for agricultural use in many parts of the developing
awareness of genetics and plant characteristics is needed in order to make wise decisions on growing food in each region. In areas further from the equator, new crops can be grown that were not well adapted before, while in areas nearer to the equator, heat tolerance, water-use efficiency and other characteristics will become even more important. Variable and less predictable weather patterns are also major challenges for farmers. In the coming decades, temperature and precipitation patterns could change in ways that will require ongoing adaptation in varieties and growing methods to ensure our food supply. Distribution Total global food production measured in caloric output is sufficient for our current population; however, almost one billion people (14 percent of Earth’s inhabitants) are currently undernourished. There are many reasons for this including politics, corruption, crop waste, food transport difficulties and severe poverty issues. The seed industry can help improve this situation with the development of varieties and agronomic techniques that will lead to increased food production in local environments, using locally appropriate technologies.
What’s the Solution? The solutions to each of the above individual issues, and also the combined problem which they create—the need to produce more food on less land under changing environmental conditions, while ensuring food is available to the entire global population—are based on scientific knowledge. We must continue to discover and use new technologies, and find ways to better implement existing ones. A major debate is happening over so-called high-tech and low-tech farming, which really focuses on the mutual benefits and coexistence of conventional biotechnology and organic agriculture. The debate should not be on IF these systems can coexist, but on HOW they coexist, and mutually build on the strengths of each system. On one side, the word “technology” itself is ostracized, and on the other, the word “organic” is seen as representing a purely ideological movement rather than a production method which is based on sound science (soil science for instance). Rather than competing with each other, these systems need to be complementary. Another debate happening on a global level involves the cost of food. On the production side, agriculture New technologies hold the promise to dramatically increase yields for farmers around the world. accounts for less than five percent of world. Much of this new farm land is marginal, with average the Gross World Product (the combined GDP of all nations). productivity therefore declining. There is less productive land On the consumption side, most people in the developed world available to support tomorrow’s world population. spend between 10 to 20 percent of their disposable income on food; whereas in the developing world, this can be 80 percent Climate Change or higher. When not much money is available to start with, Regardless of the causes of climate change, long-term climate the latter case can be frightening. So, in developing nations, cycles are impacting growing conditions around the world. An the cost of food in relation to income and other basic needs 14
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The situation has recently worsened due to higher food prices caused by poor crop yields affected by regional severe weather.
represents a clear problem. This situation has recently worsened due to higher food prices caused by poor crop yields affected by regional severe weather (both droughts and floods), increased fuel costs, short-term speculation, currency exchanges and other (often political) issues. This points to a conflict where farmers do not adequately participate in the world’s economy, but yet it is said that food prices are high. The question must be asked whether food prices in developed countries are actually quite low, while developing countries struggle more with low yields, poor food distribution and low overall income. If technology can be used to increase basic crop yields in relation to inputs, if farmers can receive a fair income, and if consumers have access to this food production at a reasonable cost, then the system works. But farmers in developed countries have not seen crop prices go up to any major or sustained extent since the 1950s, certainly not in relation to input costs; and farmers in the developing world are mostly still subsistence farming. Farmers in both areas can benefit from further investments in technology, providing increased returns to them while still allowing appropriate food prices. What Kind of Technology Is Needed? First of all, we need to discuss agronomic technology, which is science and information used to produce and harvest crops. This includes soil science, pest control, crop rotation and water management. Any crop production system is based on sound application of knowledge in various fields to maximize the potential of the seed, farm location and environmental conditions during the season. In all crop systems, regardless of which seed variety is used, these elements must be maximized. This is appropriate use of technology. In terms of plant breeding, there are several methods that are considered “high tech.” These include the development of various types of hybrids, Marker Assisted Selection, the use of QTLs in breeding, High Throughput Genotyping and the use of transgenic or genetically enhanced technology. Examples of the latter are the well-known RR and Bt traits, as well as more recently the use of several stacked traits and refuge in a bag technology (where non-GE insect-resistant seeds are mixed in the bag, giving 16
insects a refuge area and ensuring there is no monoculture of the GE plants). All of these are well-regulated systems, and are appropriate technologies for their particular purposes. One production method which is often discussed is organic food production. This can be defined in several ways, including at the legal level, or from the environmental, human health, or socio-economic perspectives. This is also technology, namely the use of knowledge about natural systems to improve the output per a given and controlled input. This is the basis for sustainability. In 1987, the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations described the term sustainable development as: “...development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This is a common goal of farmers and seed breeders, regardless of whether they use high-tech, conventional or organic methods. The three production elements described above should all come together in the near future, when we no longer have a polarized discussion about technology, and appropriate and value-added traits can be incorporated into crop varieties via various modern techniques, crop production systems focus on reduced inputs and increased outputs, and when technology is used along the entire chain. We should, and can, achieve “sustainable GE farming,” as well as “GE organics”—in fact, they are one and the same. It is called farm technology to feed the world. Marc Cool
Editor’s Note: Marc Cool is a fifth-generation seedsman with over 20 years of professional experience in the seed industry. His experience ranges from working in California’s alfalfa seed industry and Oregon’s turf and forage grass industry, to developing a commercial organic seed business in New Mexico. He is an active member of various seed trade associations, and serves as a board member and officer of the American Seed Trade Association. Seed World
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Giant Views of the Industry Our feet are firmly planted in the new decade, and changes in the seed industry are happening faster than ever. Technology is booming and the world is shrinking. Various experts from this yearâ€™s Giant Views of the Industry discuss the trends and insights affecting your business today, and provide advice on how to survive the next 25 years.
lant breeding and biotechnology have changed the speed of the industry. The capacity to produce new varieties is greater than ever, but the life span of varieties isn’t the primary determinant of speed in the industry anymore. Many rapidly evolving factors will shape the business, such as new traits, biofuels, food quality issues, globalization and a shift in the end user (farmers aren’t the only customers anymore). In order to keep up with the seed industry today, companies need to anticipate and welcome change. Be adaptable. And, in today’s world of advanced technology and globalization, companies must be willing to work together. The seed industry is becoming more globalized every day. As the world shrinks due to technology, working together is more important now than ever. Canada, the United States, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Brazil have recently come together and formed the Seed Association of the Americas for this very reason, and it’s been very successful during the past year. “You’ve got a block of countries from North America, Central America and South America that produce more than 85 percent of the biotech products in the world,” says Andy LaVigne, president and chief executive officer of the American Seed Trade Association. “We do a lot of counter seasonal production of seed, grow outs and multiplications, and research down in the region, and it is important that we have strong relationships with all of those countries.” Lavigne says the SAA was established to make sure “movement of seed within the western hemisphere is expedited and that there are a limited number of delays in the process.” And as these strategic alliances—whether between groups of countries or companies—grow and prosper, they become a cornerstone to a company’s marketing plan. “Strategic alliances and partnerships can be very good distributers in certain regions where we are not active ourselves, but the key is to educate the partners on how to sell grass seed,” says Stefan van der Heijden of Barenbrug. “Not only do we get them to sell our product, but we tell them how to manage our product, which is one of the most important aspects of how we are marketing our products.” The Decade of Biotech Advanced technology is the biggest driver in today’s evolving industry. There has been talk of the next generation of traits, such as drought tolerance and nitrogen use efficiency, for many years now but, for the most part, these traits haven’t come to market yet. In part, this is due to an overburdened regulatory system, and many feel this decade will finally see the commercialization of many exciting new traits. “I’ve spent the last 10 years working internationally with seed and biotechnology and there has been a huge increase in adoption of biotechnology over the last year driven by acceleration in South America—specifically Brazil and Argentina,” says Brett Begemann, executive vice president of seeds and traits for Monsanto. “Mexico now is moving their process forward and allowing trials. China has moved forward with the approval of two biotech products—one for corn and one for rice. India is moving faster. So as you step back and look at the world, I think we’re seeing acceleration.” Janice Tranberg of CropLife Canada agrees. “The last 10-12
years we’ve had around 33 traits developed and commercialized,” she says. “We’re expecting within the next 5-10 years an additional 90 traits and if you add combinations of those traits, that number could even get higher. Around the world we now have 25 countries that are growing biotech crops and we have even more that are researching and bringing traits forward. So, as this trend continues, acceptance is going to happen no matter what and it is increasing because people are seeing the benefits.” Tranberg says those benefits will affect farmers in the form of increased drought tolerance or better nitrogen utilization, but consumers will also see benefits with increased levels of antioxidants and vitamins in food. “Golden Rice, for example, is in field trials right now and those products are going to bring increased vitamin A to a lot of the people in developing countries and that’s important for sight,” says Tranberg. The growth of biotechnology is benefitting the industry but this also means companies have to adapt and react quickly to change. “We started out with a few traits years ago, but they’ve grown fourfold since we’ve started,” says Dana Eaton, head of product development for GreenLeaf Genetics. “More traits and more product. Now, what we’ve been able to do is license more lines, incorporate traits into a lot more lines—that builds a revenue stream, but also means we have to add more processes.” Eaton says the company has added a component of testing within the company, and while it had one provider before, “now
Advances in plant breeding technology are increasing yields around the world.
we have three providers, therefore, we have to keep our sales force up to date on all these rapid changes so they in turn can keep our clients up to date on those rapid changes.” He adds that the growth in traits and, therefore, sales means a better revenue stream, “but we have to do a better job of getting to our clients faster, in a very efficient manner.” All About Access The onslaught of new technology and traits is making age-old challenges in the seed industry new again. Profit margins are narrowing as it gets tougher to make sure companies can pull a profit each year from all the product offerings now available. 19
As technology evolves quickly, products are moving from production to obsolescence almost overnight, therefore having a tremendous impact on profit margins. Also, gaining access to the new technologies that are available continues to be a challenge. Independent seed companies spend a lot of time trying to maintain access to the broadest portfolio of products and delivering those to their farmer customers in the format they need. “There are many independent seed companies who want access to genetics. The seed companies may be acquired, they may expand, new ones might pop up, but that percentage of the market has remained about the same and there is a demand for quality genetics,” says Eaton.
“We’re going to earn the genetic business by putting good seeds in the bag.” —Brett Begemann, Monsanto
But, the relationship between input suppliers—the licensees—and seed companies is also evolving. Broad licensing has been the basis for the last dozen years for the growth and access of independent seed companies to traits and genetics. That’s beginning to change and some of the suppliers are looking at seed companies a little bit differently—by beginning to work on alliances and ways of business that might remove some of the choices for independent seed companies. “That dynamic has been changing in the last few years,” says David Hingst, president of Hoegemeyer Hybrids. “Genetics and traits seem to go together and at this point we must look at both, as well as a number of other facets such as seed treatments. So we really need to go back and ask what does our customer want? Because our customer is, in the end, the customer of a genetic or trait supplier or seed treatment supplier.” Hingst says the key is to fulfill the needs of the customer, and when it comes to the relationship with suppliers, “it really 20
starts with the customer and builds back up to what is available for us and how we chose to answer the question of what does our customer need?” Eaton says, as a licenser of traits, GreenLeaf can’t afford to alienate the independent sector. “We see that there will always be a strong independent sector and we can support that—we need to support that,” says Eaton. “There will be consolidation, or they will be bought out, or shut down, and as long as we can provide them with the latest technologies in the best genetics, then that will keep these people in the game.” And while the dynamic is changing, Begemann maintains that as the next generation of traits hits the market, Monsanto plans to continue with its broad license strategy. “We’ve always said [broad licensing] is a cornerstone of our strategy and how we intend to go to market. As we bring new technologies such as drought tolerance to market, we’ve already been talking to many of our licensing customers and telling them our expectation is that we’re going to broadly license these technologies.” Begemann says the challenge is as the products become more complicated, it becomes harder to ensure farmer success, seed company success and supplier success. “As we add those together and the complexity comes in, we have to continue to be good about conversing with each other and planning for that,” he says. “We said we’re not going to force farmers to buy seed from Monsanto in its brands just because we have a trait, we’re going to let farmers pick what brand they want to buy by broadly licensing these technologies and we’re going to earn the genetic business by putting good seeds in the bag and there are some great companies out there that have been fabulous partners with us in bringing technology to farmers. I continue to believe that farmers are better served by all of us working together in that licensing relationship.” Regulatory Issues Remain While each country and region has its own regulatory challenges, perhaps the biggest regulatory issues right now are those affecting the global seed trade. Issues surrounding low level presence have been front and center this past year and everyone is hoping to see progress in this area soon. “I think the great variability in regulations is the biggest barrier to trade,” says van der Heijden. “There are so many differences between countries and we need to work on leveling the playing field.” Many companies and associations around the world are working on solutions to make trade issues easier to manage. “At CropLife Canada, one of the things we’re working hard on is helping Canada develop a policy that is transparent and flexible around low level presence or LLP,” says Tranberg. “So, what I mean by this is products found in import shipments that have been commercialized and approved in one or more countries, but not the country of import, and are found at very low levels.” Tranberg believes policies need to be developed so countries can deal with LLP without stopping shipments at their borders due to trace amounts of genetically modified seeds with a full approval in other countries. The combination of more traits and improved detection technologies means it’s going to be increasingly important to identify and look at solutions for LLP, continues Tranberg. “These policies need to be internationally recognized and they need to be something that we can work on across the globe,” says Tranberg, Seed World
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adding that countries need to start with domestic policy and then communicate this policy to the rest of the world. Certainly, communication remains key to coming up with solutions and David Hansen from Canterra Seeds can’t stress that enough. “There’s always room for improvement to make sure the right parties are involved in the dialogues between countries and organizations involved in a trade dispute,” says Hansen. “In certain situations, more effective communication may have helped minimize the impact of certain disputes, or at least provided the industry with knowledge of the problems at an earlier date. Some of these issues are impossible to anticipate, but when they do come about, we need to talk about them earlier, as a group and as an industry, with government agencies as well as trade groups.” Specialized Trait Developers Traits are also beginning to flow from other companies—not only the big six. Many big companies are partnering with small biotech (or non-biotech) trait development companies to commercialize traits such as drought tolerance and nitrogen utilization. Big companies are frequently partnering with these specialized companies to advance their breeding programs. “We are a trait development company that allows companies to put a particular trait into a plant, without the regulatory burden,” says David Voss, vice president of commercial development with Cibus. “Some products that are soon to be entering the market were developed by our technology and will be carried forward with some major companies. Some of the media like to put us against some of the major players in agriculture which really is unfair because, in reality, we’re really actually partners with many of these major companies.” Some of Cibus’ partnerships include major companies like BASF and Mahkteshim, as well as smaller organizations such as the Flax Council of Canada. The company’s main target is Europe, due to the fact that its technology is not transgenic. “We’ve actually had several scientist groups in Europe look at our technology and they’ve also come to the same conclusion— that we are a mutagenesis technology,” says Voss. “And that is very key for Europe because Europe actually goes out of its way to exclude mutagenesis in its directive of GMOs annex.” Recruitment Still Key At the end of the day, no matter how bright the future looks, we need a solid foundation, which is why recruitment remains a top priority. “When we look at the evolution of this industry, it is happening very, very quickly. For us to continue to innovate and evolve, we need to have a solid base of students coming out of college with master’s degrees, PhDs in all the sciences, not just breeders, plant physiologists, agronomist breeders, and geneticists,” says LaVigne. “And we realize that that’s a challenge for us today. Universities around the world have budget issues that are impacting them on a regular basis so it is important that companies play a more active role in the education and training process.” ASTA has developed a couple of programs, with help from its affiliated organizations like the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders and the American Seed Research Foundation, within its new First the Seed Foundation. “We’re pairing up students with seed industry mentors in 22
“This is a technology-based industry and innovation is central to agriculture’s success.” —Andy LaVigne, ASTA
our various meetings so they can shadow industry professionals,” explains LaVigne, “to talk to them about what’s out there and the opportunities. We really think there are a host of areas that students can come back to in agriculture and we want them to see the opportunities available to them—not only to meet the demands here in the United States, but to meet the demands globally to feed the world.” The key is getting the message out there, and the seed industry needs to continue and expand its communication and education tactics, not only for recruitment but for overall survival. “We’ve got to talk to people about the seed industry—this is a technology-based industry and innovation is central to agriculture’s success. Innovation and technology are driving those opportunities to maximize what we’ve got—to preserve the environmental resources of the United States and to feed the world,” says LaVigne. “So, we’re excited about telling that story, we see it as a big challenge, but it’s something that we’re really looking forward to.” Begemann agrees, saying in order to harvest the seed industry’s bright future, we need to work together to spread the right message. “We have to stand together and stand with our farmer customers to help people that are not directly involved in agriculture understand that what we do is actually good for our environment—not bad,” says Begemann. “I think there are a lot of things that as an agricultural community we could do better standing together on than we do today in dividing ourselves, and that would be my advice and encouragement to us as an industry—is stay together on the issues around agriculture, recognizing that we’ll have different opinions but that’s okay, stay together when it comes down to challenges that we face as an industry.” Julie McNabb
To view Seed World’s Giant Views of the Industry video series, visit SeedWorld.com
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At a time of technology and globalization, many of the experts in this year’s Giant Views of the Industry had interesting stories to tell about being adaptable. Enjoy some of the highlights of their news and insights. Breaking Trade Barriers “[Low level presence] has become quite a bit of a challenge and that really is because of the regulatory process throughout the world. As the global seed leader in new research and development in the seed industry, we’ve got to continue working with our government so that it’s interacting with our trading partners to address new regulations for biotech products and their countries. It’s going to continue to evolve, you’re going to continue to see a lot of adoption of biotechnology products. China has approved two products in its country in rice and corn, you’ve got India looking at opportunities, you’ve got food shortages throughout the world, and new developments in biotechnology are going to expedite dealing with those situations. But, we’ve got to make sure that there is a sound, low level policy globally and it doesn’t impede trade.”—Andy LaVigne of the American Seed Trade Association
Mutagenesis Revolution What is the difference between Cibus’ Rapid Trait Development System and transgenic technology? “The fundamental difference is that transgenic technology uses foreign DNA. It involves taking foreign DNA from a plant, another species, and inserting it into a plant. We have learned how to harness a natural mechanism within the plant and we actually encourage the plant to make its own natural mutation, so there’s no foreign DNA. Therefore, we are a mutagenesis technology; we’re very sight specific. What does that mean? The benefit is, quite frankly, it’s about one-tenth of the cost of transgenic technology. Our development projects typically run somewhere around seven million dollars over a three- to four-year period. That’s about roughly a tenth what it would cost to do a transgenic project when you include all the regulatory aspects and everything that goes into the development of a project.”—David Voss of Cibus 24
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Patent Expiration “We’ve been very clear that we’re going to continue to support the regulatory framework [for Roundup Ready One technology] around the world through 2017 which is about three years after that patent expiration. Patent expiration is something that’s inevitable—we all know that it’s there and it’s coming so we’ve been in that planning mode for some time. And to be clear, there was some speculation out there that we were going to make companies destroy seed and I wonder ‘how does somebody draw that conclusion about us’ because that’s just not who we are. No, we’re not going to make anybody destroy seed. What I’m focused on is Roundup Ready Yield brings farmers a significantly better product, it yields better than Roundup Ready One and that, for us, is how we look at it as a company. It’s about continuing to bring innovation to farmers … it’s about innovation and bringing new technology and continuing to increase profitability of our farmer customers.”—Brett Begemann of Monsanto Company Succession Success Is there a long-term strategy to keep Barenbrug a family enterprise? “Yes, that happened already a couple of years ago— Barenbrug retained the full ownership of the company by buying back 30 percent of the shares which were in the hands of the banks. The second step was that we made the fourth-generation ready to take over the company’s management and they are now at the helm of the boat and leading the company. And the last step is we are building on a strategy of a long-term investment in research development and marketing in order to expand our activities worldwide.”—Stefan van der Heijden of Barenbrug Chinese Powerhouse “The seed industry in China is very interesting, creates lots of excitement and has lots of opportunities for those companies that have the time, patience and understanding of the market. What is interesting in China is that the national and state governments consider food security as one of their top priorities. Obviously, they also see the value of biotechnology and the development of improved seed varieties for the Chinese market. China right now is probably second to only the yet, we all anticipate that time will come and it will come when China is ready with their own biotechnology and their own products.” —David Hansen of Canterra Seeds Benefits to Non-GM Technology “We’re not opposed to transgenic technology, we’re just an alternative to transgenic technology. And what drives a company like us is that we are faster to the market—it’s easier for us to get through to the regulatory process, which is a significant burden on companies. We’ve actually obtained regulatory approvals in some parts of the world—the USDA has reviewed our technology and they agree with us that it is a mutagenesis technology and we’re clean. We are lower cost in the total development package and that means the farmers, ultimately, are going to be saving money in the long run with utilizing our technology.”—David Voss of Cibus 26
Technology Speeds up Production Pace When it comes to seed production, McNaughton says there are a couple huge advancements—one in the field and one out— impacting the sector. “Obviously GPS tracking in hybrid seed production has allowed us to go back in and manage split plants and male and female planting separately. GIS information has allowed us to manage fields with much more intense programs. Out of the field, the quality aspect has improved dramatically and “we’re getting results much quicker and are able to move products into the market immediately following harvest, which we weren’t able to do previously.”—Brian McNaughton of Hytech Production Investing in Wheat “We like to participate in a crop where we can create value for farmers that can take a significant step change in productivity, and do that in a marketplace where we can be rewarded. When we look at wheat in particular, it’s a crop where we believe we can do that. There’s some great technology coming that can make a step change in productivity. I believe wheat producers as a general rule are open and receptive to technology investments in wheat, probably more so than they were in the past. If we can deliver on bringing those expected values I think the industry will be there to support us in bringing those forward.”—Brett Begemann of Monsanto The Future of Forage “If we would have only had the financial crisis then I think it would be not a crisis for the industry, but what we have seen is the international crisis came together with a lot of other problems like bad weather and overproduction, and that all together made a big crisis in the grass seed industry.” However, the timeline for recovery is already underway. “People are adapting their production plans and that will probably take another year and then we’ll probably be back on normal levels.” And the future looks bright for forages. “We are seeing better varieties in more remote areas available. Secondly, there are a number of additional technologies which can support the strength of genetics, for example, in certain markets we are working with safe endophytes which can really support the genetics. The next step, of course, is that we have to explain to our customers the quality of these varieties and how to manage them, and that sometimes is a problem due to the varying professionalism of our customers. In some countries you have big operations that understand grass. And other countries you have people who love tractors and cows and the grass is something that is green and outside and they have to be taught the value of the grass. … We have to explain to our customers that the way these new products are developed is very sustainable and hopefully consumers are going to pay a little bit more for them.”—Stefan van der Heijden of Barenbrug
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Giant biographies Brett Begemann Executive Vice President, Seeds and Traits, Monsanto Brett Begemann has commercial responsibility for Monsanto’s businesses in North America, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), Asia Pacific, China, India and South America. Begemann leads the strategic approach and global coordination aimed at accelerating the growth potential of Monsanto’s businesses. As a part of his strategic priorities, Begemann develops and directs regionally adapted strategies focused on the expansion of the company’s seed-and-trait platform and growth initiatives in each region. Dana Eaton Product Development Head, GreenLeaf Genetics Dana Eaton is a research director and scientist with product development experience in the private sector, universities and international public research centers in the United States, Latin America, and Africa. In his current role at GreenLeaf Genetics, he manages the genetic portfolio of inbreds and hybrids from companies in the United States, Canada, Europe and Latin America. David Hansen President and CEO, Canterra Seeds David Hansen joined Canterra Seeds in October of 2009 as president and chief executive officer. He has over 30 years of seed and agribusiness experience working in Canada and internationally. David Hingst General Manager, Hoegemeyer Hybrids David Hingst joined Hoegemeyer Hybrids in 1977 and since has served as production manager, sales manager, general manager and president. Currently he is part of the general management team with a focus in soybean product selection and supply management. In addition, Hingst has been involved with the Independent Professional Seed Association for over 20 years and was president of IPSA in 2010. Andrew W. LaVigne President and CEO, American Seed Trade Association Andrew LaVigne joined the American Seed Trade Association in February 2006 as the president and chief executive officer. With a 17-year career in government relations, industry representation, public affairs advocacy and management, LaVigne is an expert in the areas of agriculture, food policy and international trade. 28
Brian McNaughton President and Founding Director, HyTech Production Ltd. In 1998, Brian McNaughton founded HyTech Production Ltd., an independent seed production company based in Lethbridge, Alta. The company’s primary business is breeder services and the production of hybrid canola parent lines through to full-scale hybrid canola seed production. Janice Tranberg Vice-President, Western Canada, CropLife Canada Janice Tranberg is responsible for the development of plant biotechnology industry stewardship programs and coordination with Canadian regulatory agencies on the modernization of regulatory policies and programs for CropLife Canada. She is also involved in government and stakeholder relations for Western Canada. Stefan van der Heijden Global Research Director, Barenbrug Holding Stefan van der Heijden has been the global research director at Barenbrug Holding, the dutch-based seed company specializing in grasses and legumes, since 2004. He has been active in the seeds industry since 1982 and is experienced in a range of agricultural crops such as potatoes, corn, cereals, pulses, flax, sugarbeets and grasses. David Voss Vice President, Commercial Development, Cibus David Voss has more than 25 years experience in the seed and biotechnology industry, with particular expertise in the commercialization of new technologies using seed- and plantbased products. He oversees commercial development for Cibus.
Visit SeedWorld.com for a complete list of all the Giant Views of the Industry participants from the past year. Seed World
Nutrition Makes the News Concerns over the malnutrition of one billion people globally is putting this health issue front and center on the world stage, but the nutrition challenge cannot be solved solely by the health sectorâ€”farmers are the first nutrient providers.
ften called the hidden hunger, malnutrition is rising on the global radar screen. Since the spike in food prices in 2007-08, there has been renewed discussion of hunger, but the issue is bigger than that. Food security is not only about the quantity of food we consume; it is also about the quality and diversity of that food as well. Nutrition insecurity contributes to the deaths of almost 10 million people each year and affects the health of one billion. Life-threatening illnesses can be caused by a lack of protein or micronutrients such as iodine, vitamin A and iron. Malnutrition weakens our immune systems, exacerbates the effect of diseases such as measles, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea, and can permanently impair long-term physical and cognitive development. At the same time, there are also concerns about overnutrition. Leaders in the health sector are working to make obesity a major social issue, not just a medical one. Recently, associations for cancer, heart and diabetes have banded together to focus on chronic, non-communicable diseases. Discussions about diet and nutrition will be growing even louder in the months ahead, as there is a concerted effort to elevate the importance of lifestyle choices, including increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Scrutiny is intense on the fat and salt content in foods, as well as how food is processed. Already there have been significant bans on trans-fat in food, increased labelling requirements and much consumer education. Currently the United States is considering changing the ways in which highly processed foods are marketed to children. There are also advocates for labelling dairy and meat as high-risk foods due to saturated fat content. Another
Fruit and vegetables are part of a healthy lifestyle choice. Seed World
A healthier produce section at the grocery store starts in farmers’ fields.
idea recommends imposing “fat taxes” and “thin subsidies”— essentially taxing food that could be fattening and subsidizing fruits and vegetables. Interestingly, one scenario run on such a tax/subsidy program suggests it would save a substantial number of lives among people who already consume close to the recommended levels of fat, fruits and vegetables, but would likely have little effect on the diets of people who are far from the recommended levels. Thinking about the right way to address nutrition is increasingly the focus of global policy-making. Agriculture’s Role Traditionally, nutrition security has been viewed as the realm of health professionals. Yet the global nutrition challenge cannot be solved solely by the health sector—farmers are the first nutrient providers. Continued focus on increasing agricultural productivity is arguably the first step to improving food and nutrition security. At a policy level, discussion of what agriculture can do is complex. Two competing visions state that either: 1) Agriculture is producing enough, but too much of the harvest is going to other uses such as biofuel; or 2) Increased population and development around the world is resulting in higher caloric demand, so agriculture must produce more. One perspective on which everyone seems to agree is that agriculture must do better to help address nutrition issues. From crop rotations to growing healthier crops, the world’s farmers will be getting stronger signals encouraging them to produce 32
The International Food Policy Research Institute has made a number of recommendations to better link agriculture, nutrition and health. Among them: Fill the knowledge gaps • learn more about how different patterns of agricultural growth affect nutrition and health • invest in research, evaluation and education systems capable of integrating information from all three sectors Do no harm • mitigate the health risks posed by agriculture along the value chain • design health and nutrition interventions that contribute to the productivity of agricultural labour Seek out and scale up innovative solutions • design agriculture, nutrition and health programs with cross-sectoral benefits • incorporate nutrition into value chains for food products
food with the highest possible nutritional value. Increasingly, governments are looking at using purchasing power and subsidies to support desired nutritional outcomes (for example, buying organic produce for school feeding programs). Plant Breeding There has been criticism of production shifts which have focused primarily on a few key crops. For example, increased consumption of cereals, at the expense of some traditional crops, particularly pulses, is perceived as a shortcoming that has exacerbated malnutrition challenges in some countries. Variety is key. Plant breeding, in all its forms, has a role to play in the availability of food. Remarkably few of the policy discussions on plant breeding have focused on developing low linoleic oilseeds or on other improvements to food crops. Instead, there is a concern that plant breeding is only focused on yield, and is too concentrated on a limited number of crops.
78 percent of their total vitamin A intake in Mozambique and 53 percent in Uganda. In the long run, the improved exposure to vitamin A could help save their eyesight. Among the lessons learned from this early success story in biofortification is the need to take the total life cycle of a new crop into account. That includes giving farmers agronomic information on crop production, supply chain interventions, particularly in local markets, demand creation through education, and behaviour change among consumers. Food Policy Individual programs like that of HarvestPlus give hope for achieving real outcomes in using biofortification to fight malnutrition and achieve food security. However, the debate over food policy moves far beyond just one program. It touches on markets for agricultural commodities, stockpiles, labelling and consumer choice. Many experts are engaged in this debate,
“Sectors don’t matter, projects don’t matter. Results matter.” —Joachim von Braun of the Center for Development Research
Particularly, there is interest around the world in breeding more healthy fruits and vegetables. Selecting a diverse range of vegetables that are more nutrient-dense has recently been encouraged. Helen Keller International has created a garden program in Asia that can feed families of four to five, providing a good range of nutrients for a year from just six-by-six meter plots. Biofortification Plant breeding is also a way to achieve biofortification. One of the most cost-effective ways to tackle malnutrition is through breeding crops with higher nutrient content, particularly of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin A. This has advantages over supplements (such as vitamins) as it allows farmers to produce a valuable product, targets solutions more directly and reduces distribution problems. Perhaps the best example of the success of biofortification is a project involving the orange-fleshed sweet potato led by HarvestPlus. From 2007 to 2009, HarvestPlus distributed the potato, richer in vitamin A than other potatoes, to more than 24,000 households. In Mozambique, 75 percent of project households adopted the variety, as did 65 percent in Uganda. For the most part, the project did not increase total potato acreage, but shifted production from white-fleshed to healthier orange-fleshed varieties. The great news is that four years from the launch of the project, 61 percent of the farmers involved in Uganda and 68 percent of those in Mozambique who were given the orange sweet potato are still growing it. As a result, total vitamin A intake has increased, especially among children and women. Notably, for children aged 6-35 months, the orange-fleshed sweet potato contributed 34
including doctors, nutritionists and government policy makers. Shockingly, among the least consulted groups is the one most likely to be able to affect change—farmers. The opinions of the very people engaged in food production are too often seen as irrelevant when the larger food questions are addressed. Ironically, even though they grow food, smallholder farmers represent one half of the global poor and a large portion of the malnourished. They, and farmers in all parts of the world, must be part of the solution. Joachim von Braun of the Center for Development Research says: “Sectors don’t matter, projects don’t matter. Results matter.” He is absolutely right, but without the engagement of agriculture, most of these results won’t be achievable. Robynne M. Anderson
International Food Policy Research Institute http://2020conference.ifpri.info Farming First www.farmingfirst.org Interesting Video on Nutrition www.youtube.com/ watch?v=xYZ7p_2txsU Seed World
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Seed Treatment: A Tool for Sustainable Agriculture Seed treatment technology has come a long way since the use of salt brine in the mid-1600s. Today, seed treatments deliver clear environmental, economic and social benefits, making the technology a perfect tool for sustainable agriculture.
Photo Credit - Bayer CropScience AG
ith a growing world population, now more than ever it’s critical that farmers have access to the tools that will help them grow more food while protecting the environment. And seed treatments are one of these tools. “By utilizing modern agriculture technologies, farmers will be able to boost yields, conserve water usage and protect biodiversity,” says Keith Jones, director of stewardship and sustainable agriculture for CropLife International based in Brussels, Belgium. “Seed treatments represent one tool on which many sustainable agriculture technologies rely upon. By protecting seeds from planting to emergence, seed treatments can improve stand establishment and increase potential yield.” Helmut Schramm, head of the seed treatment business at Bayer CropScience in Monheim, Germany, agrees, saying seed treatments deliver clear environmental, economic and social benefits, making this technology a perfect tool for sustainable agriculture. “Innovative seed treatment technology represents an environmentally-sound approach to crop protection,” he says. “Treating the seed provides a targeted and effective means of application that helps increase yields, safeguard our environment and ensure a sustainable means of crop production.” Over the years, seed treatments have evolved from simply protecting the seed to helping improve plant stand and early plant health. “Seed treatments are increasingly designed to also enhance plant emergence, growth or nutrition efficiency, which, along with crop protection, lead to a more vigorous and uniform crop,” says Schramm. “This forms the optimal base for a high-quality crop which can fully exploit its yield potential.” Greg Lamka, chair of the International Seed Federation Seed Treatment and Environment Committee, says that in order to maximize yield, it’s important to have a full and uniform stand. The STEC committee was established in the 1990s to raise the seed industry’s awareness about the use of different seed treatments and to promote a better understanding of how production could be improved and made more efficient. The committee consists of seed companies and crops protection companies who wish to promote the safe and effective use of seed treatment products. “Growers are paying more for the seed, so expectations are rising about the performance of our products. Seed treatments
Seed treatment: This environmentally compatible and user-friendly form of crop protection has a long tradition at Bayer.
are a way to ensure that the products will perform to their maximum, based on the environment that they’re put into,” says Lamka, adding the vast majority of the seed used in developed countries is treated. The Seed Treatment Advantage Seed treatments refer to the application of crop protection products directly to a seed to protect it from seed-borne and soilborne pathogens and insects. The time between planting and emergence is the most vulnerable stage of plant development. Once in the soil, the seed is susceptible to damage from insects, pests, bacterial pathogens and fungi. Seed treatments allow farmers to protect against these threats during planting, says Jones. When possible, farmers plant earlier than they used to in order to maximize yields, and often reduce tillage or decide not to till at all, says Lamka, noting that both of these practices significantly impact the seed bed. “The earlier you plant, the more often it’s going to be cold and wet. The more plant debris you have laying on the surface of the soil, the colder and wetter the seed bed will be and the more plant disease inoculums that will be present. The colder and wetter the seed bed, the slower the seed will germinate, and the slower it comes up,” he says, adding that this provides more opportunity for fungi to attack and kill seed, or greatly reduce its health. This risk can be decreased by using seed treatments. Seed World
Photo Credit - Bayer CropScience AG
Treated cotton seed.
Seed treatments are also a highly targeted way of applying pesticides, notes Schramm. “Instead of spraying the entire field area, less than one percent is treated, and so only insects and pathogens that forage on the plants are exposed,” he says. “Therefore, beneficial species and other species that live on and around the plants are protected.” Less product use per area also leads to decreased risk of off-crop drift, which consequently has a reduced impact on species in adjacent areas, he adds. Lamka agrees, saying that in the past, if you had a problem with insects or disease, you would make a foliar or granular application. However, when you use seed treatment, you end up using less product and you’re burying the product underground. “So we’ve greatly reduced our impact to the environment by using these very small amounts of focused material as a seed treatment,” he says. Many of the new chemistries used for treatments are systemic, explains Lamka. They come off the seed coat into the soil, and are absorbed by the seedling through the root system as it grows. These products often protect the seed and the seedling for approximately three weeks after emergence. Farmers prefer seed treatment over crop spraying because it is more effective in terms of crop protection, and generates vigorous plants and increasing yields, while being more costefficient, says Schramm. “Entire field spraying can be spared, reducing the use of fossil fuels (and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with ISF 2011
“Today we’re using much safer products. They are safer for the people handling them, safer for the environment and much safer for the seed itself.” —Greg Lamka, Pioneer Hi-Bred their use) as some foliar sprays are no longer necessary,” he says. “So this addresses the economic pillars of sustainability, while complementing the technology’s environmental benefits.” Seed treatments are an environmentally safe way to protect plants because of the small use of active ingredients per unit of land area, says Lamka, who is also the global senior manager of seed applied technologies for Pioneer Hi-Bred in Johnston, Iowa. “The products are more environmentally safe than they’ve ever been in history. Using seed treatments is a good stewardship practice,” he says. Seed treatments go back thousands of years, notes Lamka, to when they put salt brine on wheat seed to get rid of certain 37
“Innovative seed treatment technology represents an environmentally-sound approach to crop protection. Treating the seed provides a targeted and effective means of application that helps increase yields, safeguard our environment and ensure a sustainable means of crop production.” —Helmut Schramm, Bayer CropScience seed-borne diseases. Years ago, mercury was also used as a seed treatment because it was very effective at killing insects that were attacking the seed, but it’s a toxic product to all living organisms. These early toxic products have been banned and taken off the market. “Today we’re using much safer products. They are safer for the people handling them, safer for the environment and much safer for the seed itself,” says Lamka. Stewardship and Education is Key The seed industry is interested in ensuring seed treatments are properly applied for both the product performance for customers and also for the safety and health of our own employees and farmers, says Lamka. CropLife International trains farmers worldwide on the use of plant science products, including seed treatments, says Jones. And in 1991, CropLife International launched its Safe Use Initiative, which consists of pilot projects designed to provide training and education for all users and handlers of crop protection products. Meanwhile, CropLife America and the American Seed Trade Association are working in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency to review seed treatment and bag/tag language. “We’re trying to determine what additional seed treatment and bag/tag language would be informative in regards to quality seed treatment application and proper planting of treated seed,” says Lamka. Meanwhile, the European Seed Association has sponsored an initiative called the European Seed Treatment Assurance. “They’re looking at an accreditation process for the various seed companies on how to apply treatment,” says Lamka. This will result in a uniform approach to proper seed treatment application. And Bayer CropScience, in cooperation with seed companies and agricultural machinery experts, has been advancing seed treatment application technologies to ensure high-quality production. Quality standards, analytical methods and certification schemes have also been developed, says Schramm. The Seed Treatment Application Center of Bayer CropScience in Monheim, Germany offers customers and interested stakeholders demonstration training on newly developed equipment and research and provides application services and machinery support. Teresa Falk
Seed treatments protect seedlings from insects, disease and other threats during planting.
Seed Health and Seed Trade Issues A need for global harmonization.
eed companies in todayâ€™s global environment need to be aware of many different types of seed trade regulations around the world. These regulations can be unclear, contradictory, ever-changing and downright frustrating to seed exporters, but with global harmonization, the process can be made easier. Whether developing a local business presence in an overseas market or exporting seed around the world, most companies ship seed (including commercial, foundation or research seed) from one country to another at some time. Shipments must meet complex seed health standards and other requirements. The regulations can be even more intricate in the case of the re-export of seed, where product is produced in one country, shipped to another for processing or other value-addition, and finally ends up in yet another country.
The Background to Seed Trade When selling seed in a foreign country, all local requirements governing seed trade must be met. This includes any product registration or seed certification requirements, local seed laws and intellectual property rights systems. In many cases, local laws (for example, laws regarding deregulation of biotech products, use of plant patents and tolerance levels for unapproved events) are vastly different than laws in the sellerâ€™s home country. All of these issues are part of a countryâ€™s foreign and trade policy agenda, and government and industry groups are focused on harmonizing regulations across regions and ensuring these are science-based and reasonable, while still allowing seed to move around the world so the benefit of technology and improved varieties reaches the world population.
Shipments of seed for fruit such as watermelon must meet complex seed health standards. 40
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Seed health regulations for seed shipments have the most immediate impact on many seed companies. While it is appropriate to use phytosanitary regulations as a way to protect a local environment from the introduction of unwanted pests, the regulations should be based on scientific research, and should be clearly and consistently communicated. All too often regulations used at borders are either unknown to the shipper and/or are not science-based. They may be either politically motivated or based on assumptions or incorrect science. Communicating the Regulations The two primary forms used to communicate phytosanitary regulations to the importer and exporter, as well as border officials, are a government-to-government notification system or a phytosanitary certificate. Any special seed health issues are addressed in an additional declaration requirement on the certificate. Governments determine the pest issues of concern for crop species from each country of origin. In the United States, for instance, seed health officials from around the world notify the Plant Protection and Quarantine program of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, responsible for maintaining information on global import regulations (from the United States to the destination country) in the Export Certification Project (EXCERPT) database. Likewise, APHIS works to prevent the introduction of potential pests into the United States, and communicates its import requirements to foreign governments. Similar organizations and systems exist around the world. An acceptable controlled pest restriction is one where all of the following conditions are met: • The pest occurs in the area of production • The pest is transmitted by or with seed as the pathway • The pest does not exist in the destination country and would cause problems if introduced or, if present, is under some form of official control such as eradication or containment. The available methods to determine absence of a pest in a seed shipment are: area freedom declarations, field inspection of mother plants, seed treatments, seed inspection prior to and/or post-entry, and sometimes post-entry field inspections. To determine the presence or impact of a pest risk, a Pest Risk Analysis can be conducted. This is a time-consuming and expensive process, so several countries also proactively maintain a database of region, crop and pathogen combinations. In the United States, APHIS maintains the Global Pest and Disease Database at the Center for Plant Health Science and Technology, as well as the Cooperative Plant Health Survey, which focuses on distribution of domestic pests and pathogens. The National Seed Health System also maintains a database of all official testing methods and accredited testing agencies. On an international level, the science-based development and information organization CABI maintains several databases of plant/pathogen combinations which can impact agriculture and the environment. There are also a number of regional and global treaties and organizations governing the establishment and regulation of agricultural trade rules, including those involving seed. These include the International Plant Protection Convention, the North American Plant Protection Organization, the European 42
While it is appropriate to use phytosanitary regulations as a way to protect a local environment from the introduction of unwanted pests, the regulations should be based on scientific research.
and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization and the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures of the World Trade Organization. C
Harmonization and Consistency are Key However, this scientific system is not always followed. There are numerous examples of new regulations suddenly being applied, of border control officials using different regulations than the importers or exporters use, of regulations that are not based on any scientific or factual data, and of requirements to use seed tests which do not correctly determine the presence of a pest or are incorrectly conducted. This is the everyday reality of importers and exporters, and is a constant threat to the free trade of seed around the world. As a result, this issue has become a major focus for all seed associations, including the American Seed Trade Association and European Seed Association. A perfect example of a seed health issue with a unified global response calling for clear, science-based and harmonized rules happened recently in Brazil. For many years, commercial seed shipments from around the world have been entering Brazil with field inspections ensuring that no pests have been introduced into the country. On December 30, 2010, Brazil published a new seed health rule named “Normative 36,” without any prior notice or comment period. Normative 36 requires: • That all seed from all origins is treated • T hat an additional declaration on the phytosanitary certificate states that the seed is free of all quarantine pests of concern to MAPA (the Brazilian plant health organization) • That seed is tested in Brazil for these pests. Normative 36 also forbids the seed from being planted until test results are obtained. Normative 36 contains annexes for each country listing all seed species to which it applies. All common seed species traded and all common production areas and countries of origin, such Y
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This lack of clarity is of grave concern as such a highly restrictive, across-the-board requirement for commercial seed will severely disrupt or stop all seed exports to Brazil. as the United States, Holland, France and Japan, are impacted by this rule. Of major concern to companies exporting seed to Brazil is that Brazil no longer accepts field inspections, but import requirements are based on seed testing. There is no information provided on which of Brazil’s quarantine pests are associated with each seed species. Without knowing which pests are of concern in which species, and without knowing the seed testing methods for these pests, the international seed community cannot possibly comply with this new rule. Additionally, because MAPA intends to retest all incoming seed shipments, there is a high likelihood of test result discrepancies. This lack of clarity is of grave concern as such a highly restrictive, across-the-board requirement for commercial seed will severely disrupt or stop all seed exports to Brazil. Working on a Solution Once it became aware of Brazil’s new seed regulations, APHIS immediately began working on solutions with ASTA and ESA, as well as the Seed Association of the Americas and the International Seed Federation. Importantly, the Brazilian Seed Trade Association (ABRASEM) was contacted, and after several global seed association telephone conferences to coordinate efforts, ABRASEM arranged a meeting with MAPA to attempt to repeal the new rule. MAPA then revised Normative 36 to allow field inspections instead of seed testing until March 2012, which is a temporary reprieve only. MAPA also indicated they will publish pest lists for each seed species on the annex. In February, a list was published for carrot seed. However, while it lists the pests of concern, it then proposes to apply the full provisions of Normative 36 to those pests. There is still no allowance for field inspections and no clarity on seed testing methods. Furthermore, not all of the pests listed are considered to be of scientifically-valid concern. If all imported seed species are regulated with such a normative system, Brazil will effectively close its borders. This is clearly not the intent of MAPA; rather the intent must be to continue to ensure the safety of all seed imports, and allow local farmers and growers to have access to improved seed varieties approved for use in Brazil. The international seed association community is working together to urge governments to negotiate a better process with MAPA. This is a perfect example of the need for a science-based, globally harmonized seed health system. Progress toward global harmonization is being made. In 2009, the North American Plant Protection Organization established a seed panel to draft a regional seed movement 44
standard. This standard will be sent out for country consultation this summer. The International Plant Protection Convention also added the development of a global seed movement standard into its work program in 2010. The future of seed is bright, as long as seed can continue to be safely and efficiently shipped around the world, providing the basis for global agriculture and food production. Marc Cool and Ric Dunkle Editor’s Note: Ric Dunkle is the senior director for seed health and trade for the American Seed Trade Association and has worked extensively on seed trade issue around the world. Marc Cool is a fifth-generation seedsman with over 20 years of professional experience in the seed industry. His experience ranges from working in California’s alfalfa seed industry and Oregon’s turf and forage grass industry, to developing a commercial organic seed business in New Mexico. He is an active member of various seed trade associations, including serving as a board member and officer of the American Seed Trade Association.
The International Plant Protection Convention www.ippc.int The North American Plant Protection Organization www.nappo.org The European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization www.eppo.org The Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures of the World Trade Organization www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/ sps_e/sps_e.htm
Seed Industry Applauds Adoption of International Treaties The outcomes from last October’s biodiversity and biosafety meetings in Nagoya, Japan are welcomed by the international plant science industry.
Two international treaties signed at COP-MOP 5 and COP 10 are welcomed by the seed industry. 46
istoric decisions adopted at the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit, as well as a meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety last October in Nagoya, Japan, will improve access to genetic resources and support the international trade of seed, say industry experts. “The outcomes of the Nagoya meeting were welcomed by the plant science industry—they provide workable systems which will improve access to genetic resources and agricultural biotechnologies, while helping to ensure smooth international trade flow,” says Denise Dewar, executive director for plant biotechnology at CropLife International, a global federation representing the plant science industry. In fact, reaction by seed industry experts to the decisions adopted at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 5), has been enthusiastic and encouraging. The adoption of two international treaties at COPMOP 5 and COP 10—the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization and the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety—is widely supported by members of the seed industry. “For several years, the delegates to the Convention on Biological Diversity have worked tirelessly to advance science-based regulations on access and benefit sharing, and the transboundary movement of living modified organisms. The plant science industry applauds them for the successful negotiations on these two issues during the October 2010 meetings in Nagoya, Japan,” says Dewar. The Nagoya Protocol on ABS, a legally binding international treaty, creates a framework that balances access to genetic resources on the basis of prior informed consent and mutually agreed upon terms with the fair and equitable sharing of benefits, while taking into consideration the important role of traditional knowledge. Seed World
The plant science industry has long supported the creation of a practical, workable and costeffective international regime on ABS that promotes transparency and legal certainty.
Dewar, and the regional and national associations she represents in over 91 countries, welcomes the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol on ABS: “After seven years of negotiation, the plant science industry is pleased that the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization was adopted. The plant science industry has long supported the creation of a practical, workable and cost-effective international regime on ABS that promotes transparency and legal certainty to justify business investments at the national level. The Nagoya Protocol provides users of genetic materials with legal certainty that those resources were acquired with prior informed consent, recognizes the special nature and importance of genetic resources for food and agriculture, and their role in achieving food security worldwide, alleviating poverty and addressing climate change,” says Dewar. The adoption of the treaties ends the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity on a triumphant note, marking a promising new beginning to the preservation of biological diversity. According to Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the CBD, the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, which is expected to enter into force by 2012, provides benefits for all participants. “By giving greater legal certainty and clarity to both users and providers of genetic resources, the Nagoya Protocol will provide an incentive for public and private sector research while ensuring that a fair and equitable share of benefits arising from this research accrues to the countries providing the genetic resources,” he says. “Hence, the protocol, by improving the current situation for all sides, and while strengthening compliance and monitoring frameworks, will promote biodiversity conservation while contributing to the long-term profitability of industries that draw upon genetic resources, such as the seed industry.” Prior to the biodiversity summit, seed industry experts were concerned about the role existing treaties addressing access and benefit sharing would play in the proposed protocol. Of particular importance to the industry was the recognition by the proposed protocol of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and the exemption of crops and plants already covered by the ITPGRFA. After negotiations at COP 10, the Nagoya Protocol on ABS acknowledged the fundamental role pre-existing agreements and guidelines for access and benefit sharing, such as the ITPGRFA and the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, play in ensuring the continuous flow of genetic resources for plant breeding. Both Dewar and Bernice Slutsky, vice president of science and international affairs for the American Seed Trade Association, welcome this outcome: “Our primary concern was that the ABS regime, under the CBD, recognizes the International Treaty and the role it plays,” says Slutsky. “The language [of the Nagoya Protocol] does this. We are pleased the role of the International Treaty was specifically included in the text. We continue to think that the International Treaty is best placed to address access and benefit sharing for agricultural products,” she says. Dewar says the adoption of the Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress was also a hard-won victory for biodiversity and the seed industry. “The adoption of the Nagoya-Kuala Seed World
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Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety establishes a workable system for response to damage to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity caused by living modified organisms.” The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a supplementary treaty to the CBD, will establish international rules and procedures for liability and redress in case of damage to biological diversity resulting from LMOs. To date, 159 countries and the European Union have ratified the protocol. The Supplementary Protocol was adopted a few hours before the opening of COP-MOP 5. Moving ahead, Slutsky says attention should now be placed on national governments and the implementation of the protocol. “Governments need to ratify the Supplementary Protocol—if they’re a party to the Biosafety Protocol that doesn’t automatically make them a party to the Supplementary Protocol—they have to separately ratify the Supplementary Protocol. It is important for governments, if they are considering ratification, to do an analysis of their own laws and determine how they will implement the Supplementary Protocol. Governments must have the tools at the national level in order to implement any treaty. Some governments will not have to do anything to implement once they ratify the treaty, some will have to put mechanisms in place,” she says. Since 2008, CropLife International has been developing the framework for an objective and independent procedure for evaluating and arbitrating claims of, and remedying damage to, biological diversity. Recently, CropLife announced the implementation of The Compact, a contractual mechanism for a clearly defined, effective, and fair resource process in the event of damage to biological diversity caused by an LMO, as a complement to the Supplementary Protocol. Reception of The Compact when presented to CBD delegates at the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit was positive and supportive of the new framework developed by CropLife. In order to secure both access to food and the preservation of biodiversity, Dewar illustrates the importance of working 50
together in this way. “Today, more than ever, food security and biodiversity are both at risk due to the increased demands of a growing population. The plant science industry is committed to helping farmers grow abundant, safe, and nutritious food for expanding populations, while maintaining and preserving natural resources. We appreciate the hard work of the delegates to the Convention on Biological Diversity in furthering policies that support science-based regulation and innovative plant science technologies that safeguard biodiversity and agricultural production.” The relationship between agriculture and biodiversity is a close, mutually beneficial one, and the importance of sustainable, accessible, diverse genetic resources to plant breeders cannot be understated. “Agriculture and biodiversity have a symbiotic relationship—agriculture is both reliant on a rich ecosystem, and good agricultural practices are critical in helping to protect biodiversity and limited natural resources. Plant breeders have long relied on diverse plant genetic resources to facilitate the exchange of desirable traits to improve crop yields, increased pest and virus resistance and to enhance nutritional content,” says Dewar. Governments also agreed on a package of measures to meet the challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change at the summit in Nagoya. The Strategic Plan, also known as the Aichi Target, was adopted at the summit. The Aichi Target is a ten-year strategic plan to guide international and national efforts to save biodiversity through enhanced action to meet the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources. The meeting also put in place a resource mobilization strategy providing a way forward to a substantial increase in current levels of official development assistance in support of biodiversity. The next meeting of the Conference of the Parties will take place in 2012 in India. Kari belanger Seed World
Europe’s Debate on GMOs
Is the EU really starting to move on genetically modified crops?
he debate around the European Union’s policy on genetically modified organisms continues, with a flurry of activity and announcements over the past year. There are many different opinions on what direction the policy is taking, but most in the European seed industry agree positive steps have been taken. Since the European Union’s current Commissioner for Consumer Protection and Public Health John Dalli took office in 2010, and was given full responsibility for all files related to GM technology, he seems to have followed a remarkably open and reliable policy line. Shortly after coming into office, he announced there were four priorities that he intended to tackle in regards to GMOs: • The outstanding authorization of some GM products (i.e. the GM starch potato Amflora) for which there was no legal justification; • T he growing problem of trace levels of GMOs not yet authorized in the EU in feed (and food) imports; • The expressed wish of member states to have more of a say in the cultivation of GM crops on their territories; and • T he question of presence of GMOs in conventional seed. He announced that he and his service would address these four priorities in the order outlined above, one after the other. When Dalli cleared the Amflora potato for planting in time for the 2010 growing season, biotech supporters in the EU and worldwide applauded his decision as a signal of change, while anti-GM activists quickly branded him as a negative authority figure. “While it is true that the Amflora potato was the first authorization for cultivation of a GM crop in more than a decade, and that this alone truly is a signal of importance, one should take a closer look at what this actually means in practice,” says Garlich von Essen, secretary general of the European Seed Association. “The Amflora potato is a very specific GM product—it is for industrial use only and not for food production. This means it is not marketed on the open EU market for plant varieties, but solely within a closed industrial circle. Therefore, this GM product is not generally available to 52
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Europe’s farmers, but only to a selected group of producers in a tightly controlled and limited system. So is it the crop that really makes the difference and demonstrates a new openness of Europe to GM cultivation? Hardly.” Next on Dalli’s list is the issue of trace levels of GMOs in conventional grain imports from third party countries, mainly imports from Northern and Southern America. Since the EU’s livestock sector is historically dependent on feed imports, with most of these imports coming from countries with extensive GM cultivation (and functioning GM approval systems), the problem of unavoidable trace levels of GMOs not yet authorized in the EU becomes ever more pressing. In fact, the gap is constantly widening. Asynchronous approvals, as such, do not necessarily have to create trade barriers; but with the EU’s policy of zero tolerance for any unauthorized GMO entering the food and feed chain, liabilities have become unbearable and sufficient feed supply for Europe’s farmers is put into question. “The EU agreed on what it calls a ‘technical solution’ for the issue—by defining a sampling and testing protocol, it establishes a tolerance level of 0.1 percent for the presence for a defined number of GM events,” says von Essen. “But is this really a solution? Again, hardly. The scope of the measure is very limited and does not cover all GM events authorized in third-party countries. And foremost, it only applies to grain imported for feed use and not for food production. Clearly, this differentiation is impractical given the simple fact that, for many commodity shipments, the decision of final use will often only be determined at a later stage in the distribution chain.” It should also be noted that the tolerance level of 0.1 percent itself may prove insufficient with ever more GM production in those countries from which the EU sources its feed supplies, and with few alternatives in sight, adds von Essen. However, most industry and farmer organizations consider the measure to be a step in the right direction, and the Commission has announced it will consider proposing widening the scope to food if the first part on feed is formally approved by member states and European Parliament. Since mid-July 2010, the Commission has been pushing its third GM priority: giving member states a greater say in GM crop production in their respective countries in an exchange for a less politicized, and thus much quicker, EU-level authorization for their use in food and feed. This proposal has met with resistance from almost all sides. “The very member states that have asked for more freedom now question the legal base. The NGOs fear that, with giving countries more freedom, some might actually make use of it and cultivate GM crops;, farmers’ organizations want to assure a level playing field and have the same inputs available to their members all over Europe,” says von Essen. “The ongoing debate clearly shows that, in Europe, GMOs still mark a political battleground. Despite decades of scientific and practical experience, millions and millions of hectares planted, and increasing pressure on consumer prices and thus on agricultural productivity, not so much has actually changed.” 54
Von Essen believes many prefer to maintain the current situation of standstill and reciprocal blockage. “It seems at least doubtful that European Parliament and member states will follow the Commission and give up their anti-GM stance on EU level in order to assume more political responsibility in their individual countries,” he says. Starts with Seed Another issue has re-emerged in the course of this nationalization debate—seed is seen by many in Europe as being different than grain imports used for food and feed. “While the seed industry, as well as farmers, has underlined that tolerances, as in thresholds, for the presence of GMOs in conventional seed and in fields are even more necessary in a situation where the legal status of GM crops differs from country to country, or even from region to region, it seems that this logical argument doesn’t find the necessary majorities,” says von Essen. “While the European Parliament’s Committee for Agriculture did support a respective amendment, the Committee for Environment did not, and it is still unclear how the full Parliament will decide when it votes in the summer, let alone how member states will take it up in their discussions.” As a result, von Essen says the Commissioner’s third and fourth priorities might very well be shot down in one, or even both, of the Union’s decision-making bodies. “And the Commission’s failure, or unwillingness, to address the practical implementation of its new policy approach of a more national decision-making on GM crop production, and to bring it in line with the principles of the EU’s internal market by including the necessary measures to establish tolerances for presence of GMOs in seed and fields, surely doesn’t help,” says von Essen. So what is the verdict? Is the EU really starting to move on GM crops? It might still be a bit early to draw a conclusion. The mandate of the Commission runs until 2014, and its report on the evaluation of the existing GM policy still hasn’t been published. But von Essen feels it is quite likely it will contain the simple conclusion that things must change. “Maybe it will then finally mark the start of a comprehensive debate and the elaboration of a consistent regulatory framework. In that case, it will be important to remind the Commission and policy makers in the European Parliament and member states that everything starts with the seed, and not with the labeling threshold for a pizza with GM tomato purée topping,” he says. “They got it wrong the first time, and have not been able to correct the mistake for more than a decade. Europe’s plant breeders, seed producers and farmers can’t wait another decade. They need decisive action. And they need it now.” Julie McNabb and Garlich von Essen
Editor’s Note: Garlich von Essen has been the secretary general of the European Seed Association since 2004 and regularly lectures on EU lobbying and public affairs for a number of European organizations and institutes. Seed World
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New traits are beginning to flow from other companies—not just the big six. Small and mid-size trait developers are forging partnerships with all the big seed companies, and it is changing the face of the industry.
ntirely new dimensions are being added to the face of agriculture in the United States and the world via the rapidly expanding trait development industry. No longer is this a business monopolized by the ‘big boys’ of the seed sector. The world’s largest biotech companies, including Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, BASF, Bayer CropScience and Syngenta are all paying attention, in fact often partnering with the increasing number of small and mid-size trait developers to advance their own breeding programs. Breaking Into Non-GM Markets Cibus Global, with research facilities based in San Diego, Calif. is only 10 years in the trait business but is now rapidly ramping up as several seed companies are courting it. “Thanks to our targeted mutagenesis technologies, we are partnering with large companies, mid-size companies, even ‘farmer groups’ to develop specific traits of interest to each of these various partners,” says Dave Voss, vice president of commercial development. Cibus technology essentially carefully characterizes the bit of DNA controlling a particular function but instead of implanting, as has been the tradition with biotechnology,
“Potentially this ‘new’ approach to trait development could eliminate the barriers currently imposed on GM crops.” —David Voss, Cibus
this company merely exposes the host’s DNA to a specifically designed short synthesized molecule (known as a gene repair oligonucleotide). This tricks the cell into thinking it’s found a mutation. To repair itself, the cell alters its own DNA, thereby incorporating the additional trait. The cell then digests and expels the GRON molecules. Cibus refers to this as their Rapid Trait Development System. From start to finish, mutagenesis can lead to a new commercially ready product in six to seven years, about three years faster than a genetically modified crop timeline, says Voss. Much of the saving is due to faster regulatory approval for RTDS technology. The company says it is also much more affordable—GM technology can cost $50 million to bring a trait to market, whereas RTDS costs about $7 million. Is it working? Voss says his firm currently has nine partners around the world geared to trait development. Cibus just finished a project with BASF, which requested a particular trait in canola. “We did the project in a relatively short period of time and they are already taking that trait to market,” says Voss, who expects this particular mutagenic product to work its way into U.S. markets. “With our nine partners we are actually working in nine different crops,” he says. Cibus apparently fits a unique role in trait development because of its non-GMO, non-transgenic technology by discovering how to harness a natural mechanism within the plant to make its own natural mutation. And because there is no foreign DNA going into the plant, this mutagenesis technology is widely accepted around the world. “Potentially this ‘new’ approach to trait development could eliminate the barriers currently imposed on GM crops,” says Voss. According to Voss, the European 2001 Directive on GMO regulations specifically spells out that mutagenesis technologies are exempt. Because Cibus’-altered plants don’t carry genes from other species, they’re not subject to bans on GM crops or special labelling requirements. Seed World
“Our approach is to first validate any particular trait into one monocot or one dicot crop with multiple years, multiple field trials. Then we license the technology to various seed companies...” —Eric Rey, Arcadia Biosciences
Almost two years ago, Cibus announced a working agreement with Israeli-based Makhteshim-Agan for multiple trait development in five different crops grown in Europe. Last spring, the Flax Council of Canada announced a $6 million deal with Cibus to develop herbicide-tolerant flax seed. Canada exports 70 percent of the crop to Europe, which doesn’t allow genetically modified organisms into food. Cibus has doubled its staff over the past two years, reports Voss, and also expanded into its third lab facility in San Diego. It just moved into a new, state-of-the art, platinum LEED-certified laboratory and now employs 60 people, with the majority doing research in trait technology projects. Two Are Stronger Than One The same business flurry exists with Arcadia Biosciences in Davis, Calif. “We’ve done agreements with very large seed companies, second-tier companies and several smaller seed companies,” says Eric Rey, president and chief executive officer. “To date we have between 65 and 70 individual licensing agreements encompassing 12 different crops—virtually in every geography around the world.” Arcadia Biosciences is seven years into the business and positions itself as being “crop neutral” in the complex science of trait development but obviously relates to the position of various crops in world agriculture. “Our approach is to first validate any particular trait into one monocot or one dicot crop with multiple years, multiple field trials. Then we license the technology to various seed companies for a variety of crops. For us field trials, rather than greenhouse trials, are the deciding factor,” says Rey. A strong data package demonstrating the efficacy of the trait is paramount to the licensing agreements of Arcadia. Another trait development company, Evogene, started in 2002 and headquartered in Rehovot, Israel, is also collaborating with world-leading seed companies to introduce its technology into key commercial crops. The company’s technology platform is based on a unique computational core technology for gene discovery called the ‘ATHLETE’ (Agro Traits Harvest Leads Technology) that enables the rapid discovery of genes and molecular markers 58
to improve high-commercial value plant traits. Evogene currently lists Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer, Bayer, Syngenta and Limagrain as working partners for introducing its technology into the commercial crop world. The firm has discovered and patented more than 1,000 genes covering various high-value traits including yield, stress tolerance such as drought, salinity and heat, and fertilizer utilization. Evogene derives its income from licensing fees, research payments and royalties on improved seed sold. In 2008 Evogene signed a five-year collaboration with Monsanto to improve yield and drought tolerance in corn, soybeans, canola and cotton. Evogene is to receive research payments of approximately $35 million over this five-year period. In addition, Monsanto purchased an $18 million equity stake in Evogene and is obligated to purchase an additional $12 million equity stake in the future. This collaboration provides Monsanto access to new genes thus strengthening its entire gene discovery program. Monsanto evaluates the licensed genes in its research pipeline. Products from this joint development will be commercialized by Monsanto through its branded and licensed businesses. Martin Gerstel, chairman of Evogene, says that, “Having the world’s leading agriculture company as a major collaborator moving forward is clearly a transforming event in the history of our company.” Meanwhile, this past September Dow AgroSciences announced a long-term research and product development agreement with KWS SAAT AG, a world market leader in sugar beet seed. This agreement focuses on the use of EXZACT Precision Technology for targeted plant genome modifications, which deliver efficient and robust means for precise genome engineering and gene stacking. “This agreement is an example of how Dow AgroSciences is delivering on its growth strategy through technological innovation and collaboration,” says Kay Kuenker, Dow AgroSciences vice president of new business. “This agreement also lays the foundation for a long-term research relationship in which we can work together to use EXZACT in numerous crops of mutual interest.” Seed World
Responding to Growers’ Needs Indeed there are a lot of investments being made by companies, big and small, in developing new technologies for agriculture, but how will these partnerships change the seed industry and agriculture in general? “They all represent a set of tools which sometimes work, and sometimes don’t work for the individual farmer. But the core reason for our existence, and that of most trait development companies, is to provide a product that adds value to the production efforts of farmers,” says Rey. “Yes, in a way it complicates farmers’ decisions because we provide more and more choices. But farmers are sharp, smart people. They are becoming more management intensive and they understand these various choices give them opportunity for better returns in their crop production endeavours.” However the question persists, ‘Can too many traits get pushed into the marketplace because farmers now appear to accept these new technologies simply as the added cost of doing business?’ The competition is already fierce, so how far can that go? Trait development companies around the world are not worried as they feel there are plenty of growers’ needs to cater to. “The ultimate driver in the marketplace is the farmer,” says Rey, adding, “I know quite a few farmers. They’re often willing to try something new once, maybe even twice. But on that third go-around if it is not showing some utility value, they’re done with that particular item.” The marketplace for agricultural traits is really a reflection of what the farmer wants. Admittedly these “wants” sometimes need to be identified via education and promotion efforts of the various seed companies. But more often the very ambition of wanting to be a successful farmer shapes their vision. They are always looking ahead. And that explains the tremendous interest already brewing in the farming community about the commercial development of two new traits: drought tolerance and better nitrogen utilization. Noble Goals Rey says both of these developments are “very close to real world realities.” He predicts plant varieties touting better nitrogen efficiencies will be the first release by Arcadia’s partner seed companies. Arcadia is doing field trials with this particular trait on six different crops with some already through multiple seasons of trials. “We’re excited and think it’s one of the more important new developments in the entire trait pipeline,” says Rey. “It would bring a fundamental change to the net energy values of crop production, the environmental impact of crop production and also the cost of doing business in agriculture. We’re fundamentally changing the nitrogen equation, kind of like designing cars that get better gas mileage.” Close behind is his firm’s trait work to improve water efficiency of various plants. This is different than drought tolerance because these plants simply get by with less water throughout their entire growth. “A corn farmer can be looking at a beautiful field that doesn’t show any moisture stress, but very likely even in that ‘perfect’ field during certain times of the day there are transient stresses,” explains Rey. “These are 60
“We’re fundamentally changing the nitrogen equation, kind of like designing cars that get better gas mileage.” —Eric Rey, Arcadia
invisible to the naked eye but have the effect of robbing little bits of yield each time this transient stress happens during a growing season.” At Arcadia, Rey and his team of scientists are excited because even with “normal conditions” their research is showing that these plants just do better because every drop of moisture becomes more functional. With a projected world population of nine billion people by 2050, the future of biotechnology shines brightly. Rey puts it in a very understandable perspective when he notes that today there are approximately one billion undernourished people in the world. Of that number, roughly 300 million are children. “I think biotechnology offers great tools to farmers that will allow them to increase efficiency and crop yields, and one of the consequences of this will be that global agriculture produces more food without consumers needing to pay more. We need to make more food and need to make it available to people in a cost-effective way—that’s the challenge,” says Rey. “I think this clearly is a morality issue. If there is some other way to increase food production for more people, I’m listening. However, I don’t see food production increasing any other way than with technologies, genetics, and better farming practices that simply keep increasing yield.” Dick Hagen
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A Dying Breed? The number of candidates entering breeding programs is decreasing around the world. What will this mean for the seed industry in the years to come?
eveloping new varieties of plants can be a rewarding occupation, but it can also be a laborious branch of agricultural research. While most plant breeders aspire to give the world varieties that will resist pests and disease, be drought tolerant in areas where water is scarce and nutritious in an increasingly hungry world, many work in obscurity for decades. Most breeders would only admit in secret of ambitions to be the next Norman Borlaug. Without public attention and promotion of the merits of plant breeding as a career, a dwindling number of young people are interested in entering this profession, and breeders working in the industry continue to retire.
Above: A group of plant breeding students from Colorado State University learn about breeding for drought tolerance. Photo Credit: Dan Bihn 62
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Not only are there fewer students entering plant breeding programs, but the nature of the discipline has changed with more specialized branches. Traditional field research remains the linchpin of a successful breeding program, but more work is being done in the laboratory using molecular genetics. Unfortunately, the excitement of biotechnology as it applies to plant breeding is still not attracting enough candidates to the field. “Plant breeding is no longer a one person job,” explains Allen Van Deynze, chair of the Plant Breeding Co-ordinating Committee in the United States. “Breeders have to be able to handle a lot of data to track traits and that may require assistants.” He adds that private and public breeding programs also demand different skills from developing varieties, to writing research papers, to understanding other cultures and their needs. Van Deynze is also concerned about the number of breeders who teach breeding programs and are retiring. These professionals will not be around to teach the next generation of breeders. “The number of plant breeders who teach plant breeding are declining and this creates another dilemma,” he says. “Students need to learn how to run a field program from someone.” Plant Breeding Education To address the issue of how plant breeding has changed, Van Deynze and Fred Bliss, professor emeritus at University of California—Davis, and a former plant breeder himself, sought the opinions of four groups: public and private breeders in developed countries, breeders in developing countries and recent graduates in the breeding industry. Approximately 300 respondents to the survey provided the researchers with some interesting insight into what knowledge and skills breeders need in order to fit into an industry that does not look like it did 50 years ago. “We initiated the global survey to learn how best to prepare future plant breeders for careers in agriculture,” Bliss explains. “The challenge is identifying what constitutes a ‘plant breeder’ because there are approximately 2,200 plant breeders in the United States, including people who develop molecular markers and those doing field work. It is difficult to determine how many people are actually working in plant breeding and how many will be needed in the future.” Bliss notes he was replaced when he left a breeding and teaching position at the University of Wisconsin several years ago, but was not replaced when he left his position at UC—Davis. He says often an assessment is made when a position becomes vacant on whether to fill it or create a different one that will contribute more to the direction the employer wants to take. “There definitely seems to be fewer plant breeders in the public sector at universities to train future breeders,” Bliss comments. “We need to examine the kind of training that is needed.” From the survey, he and his colleagues learned the need for a broad spectrum approach to educate breeders around the world who have knowledge of foreign affairs along with plant breeding skills. But there is also a need to teach the basics of plant breeding to students who come from abroad who are planning to take their knowledge home to their developing countries. 64
“Plant breeding is no longer a one person job.” —Allen Van Deynze, Plant Breeding Co-ordinating Committee Preventative Measures Despite the assessment that the future is challenging in the plant breeding sector, the reality is that countries such as the United States are graduating enough breeders today to fill the available positions. According to Bliss, over a five-year period between 70 and 75 academic degrees were awarded to U.S. students specializing in plant breeding, and that appeared to be the approximate number of positions available to be filled. It is his opinion the number of breeders needed are being educated in the field, but the experiences and skills they require is not being attained. Combine that with declining enrollment numbers, and it’s obvious there may be a problem in the future. Thankfully, the seed industry has taken action. The American Seed Trade Association is making a concentrated effort to develop programs for schools that will educate students about career opportunities in the seed industry, which include plant breeding. Individual companies are implementing co-operative programs in conjunction with colleges and universities. There are also attempts being made to improve grant and scholarship programs. All these initiatives are intended to provide the information and training needed in a sector that is experiencing declining interest and enrolment in programs. “We have started offering summer internships at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Greenleaf Genetics,” says the company’s CEO Ron Wulfkuhle. “Our hope is that [students] may want to continue their education and come back to us some day. Perhaps they will tell their friends about careers in agriculture.” He adds his company currently has an opening in its research group and expects another in the spring of 2011, but there is not an abundance of candidates from which to choose. Van Deynze points out that the seed industry is very global and that breeders may need to develop business and people skills, so upgrading the various curricula is important if the vocation of plant breeding can be assured. In order to provide education on a global basis, UC—Davis launched a European program for its Plant Breeding Academy last year. Created on the model of the highly successful Plant Breeding Academy, the UC—Davis Seed Biotechnology Center established a program to serve plant breeding companies in Europe. The European program is being held in five countries over 21 months. The fear there will not be enough plant breeders to fill positions in the future may be unfounded in 2010, but unless students learn about breeders such as Borlaug, who changed one small sector of agriculture forever, and the potential of a rewarding career in the plant sciences, a future shortfall of talent is possible. Fortunately, the seed industry has taken steps to encourage students to consider this calling. Rosalie I. Tennison Seed World
the second siege L
ate in the summer of 1941, Abraham Kameraz and Olga Voskresenskaia were harvesting potatoes. Frantically. Scientists specializing in the tubers, they oversaw the Soviet Union’s vast breeding-stock collection of 6000 varieties conserved in the fields of the Pavlovsk Experiment Station 45 km southeast of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). The Nazis were quickly approaching. Within days they would occupy the research station and proceed to cut off all exits from Leningrad, initiating a blockage and siege that would last 872 days and cost the lives of more than a million people. At Pavlovsk, Kameraz and Voskresenskaia succeeded in digging up the collection from fields under fire by German artillery, and transporting it back to Leningrad for storage in the basement of what was already the most famous seed bank in the world. But the job was not over. Tragically, neither would live to see it completed. The winter of 1941-42 was especially cold and cruel. All food supplies to the city were cut off. There was constant shelling. People were reduced to eating anything. Dog, cats, rats, dirt, and even each other.
But in the institute on St. Isaacs Square, the scientists were protecting the seeds and the potatoes. They were dying doing it. Some thirty scientists and staff died, essentially of starvation that winter. The curator of the rice collection died surrounded by bags of rice. Kameraz and Voskrensenskaia succumbed, protecting their potatoes in the cellar to the very end. The seedbank was already missing its director, the most famous geneticist and agricultural scientist of the day, Nicolai Vavilov. Stalin believed in a now discredited scientific hypothesis—the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Socialist “man” would beget socialist offspring. His trusted, politically-correct scientific advisor, Lysenko backed him. Vavilov, the real scientist, was pitched into jail and deemed an enemy of the state for not towing the line. Two years later he died there. Of starvation. Before his imprisonment, Vavilov amassed the first global collections of crop diversity and penned works that explained the origin of agricultural crops—work that led agricultural scientists to the locations most advantageous for collecting the diversity, and the traits, needed to fuel plant breeding. Modern
agricultural productivity from then until now has rested on this body of work. Why did Vavilov’s scientists willingly sacrifice their lives to save a bunch of seeds? Were they crazy? I asked that question myself on my first visit—a pilgrimage of sorts—in 1985. “We were students of Vavilov,” an old woman told me. She went on to explain that they understood the collections would be essential to reestablishing Soviet agriculture after the war. Founded by Vavilov himself in 1926, the Pavlovsk Station where the struggle to conserve crop diversity really began, now houses Europe’s largest collection of fruits and berries. Six hundred different apple varieties. A thousand strawberries. More than a thousand black and red currants, and hundreds of varieties of other fruits and berries. 5700 varieties in all, 90% of which are conserved nowhere else.
Pavlovsk Still Threatened Despite Progress
Since this article was written, there has been some progress on the issue. Legally, the land on which the Pavlovsk collection is situated is divided into two portions, one containing the forage collection and the other more important one containing the Station’s famous collection of fruits and berries. The Russian Housing Development Foundation, the agency attempting to seize the land to build apartments, has recently granted a “reprieve” for the forages. They propose to establish a scientific commission to evaluate the uniqueness and importance of the collection—presumably the entire collection—and possibly to give Pavlovsk 5-7 years to move the forage collection. Unfortunately, the fate of the larger and even more important fruit and berry collection remains unclear. Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, welcomes the move to establish a commission to provide scientific input. “It’s a positive step and we are grateful that the authorities have chosen to listen to the scientific community and provide a more transparent process.” But, he cautions that the threat of destruction still hangs over the fruit and berry collection because the developers have given no signals that they are willing to forego the bull-dozing of that parcel of land. Fowler also points out that if the fruit and berry collection is turned into a housing development, the Pavlovsk scientists will have no place to relocate the forage collection, thus the reprieve in itself would be insufficient to save even that collection. “Every reason continues to exist for us to be extremely concerned about the fate of this diversity, even as we note with appreciation the positive step taken by the developers. We hope this signals the beginning of a willingness to appreciate the value of this collection and a commitment to its continued existence,” says Fowler.
To some, it may be just a bunch of fruits and berries. Indeed, the developers argued that because the collection was “priceless” it was also “worthless.” Even the “minor crop” collections housed at the Station, however, can be credited with generating gigantic, recurring economic returns. Some 60 percent of the black currant varieties grown in Russia, the world’s largest producer, were developed at Pavlovsk. It’s a crop that generates more than $400 million in farm sales annually in Russia. Throw in the collection’s importance to apple and strawberry and the other crops, and the significance of Pavlovsk becomes evident. Despite the heroism during World War II, today the collection faces its most serious threat. It doesn’t come from jack-booted Nazis and their bombs, or Stalin and his henchmen. It comes from real estate developers. Citing a new law that allows the takeover of public lands not “efficiently” used, a court turned over the land to developers this week. Unless the President or Prime Minister overturn the ruling, the developers will rip out the collection before the end of the year to construct houses. The struggle to save this biodiversity from extinction thus enters the political arena. There we have a real but fleeting chance. One can only hope that the Russian leadership will reverse the court if and when the Russian leadership actually hears about the threat to the Pavlovsk Station and realizes its importance. The Trust is a scientific not a political organization. But we cannot remain silent. We’re betting you can’t either. Never before in history will so much crop diversity be lost intentionally and avoidably as the day the bull-dozers roar into Pavlovsk. We believe the bull-dozers can be stopped. You don’t have to enlist in the army to fight this battle. You are not called upon die of starvation to protect these plants. But you can: • Sign a petition online at http://bit.ly/PavlovskPetition • Write a letter to the President and Prime Minister (with a copy to the Russian ambassador in your country) • Tweet President Dmitry Medvedev • Forward this article to others, post it on your websites and blogs and encourage friends and contacts to take action. The Pavlovsk collection has survived more than 80 years. It has survived fascism, communism and even military assault. Can it survive real estate developers? The second siege needs to be turned back like the first. Editor’s Note: Reprinted with permission from the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
This article is part of a series produced by the Global Crop Diversity Trust. To find out more about the Trust and sign up to receive these articles regularly, please visit www.croptrust.org.
EXPANDING theToolkit Seed companies are reaching out to growers through various social media avenues.
eed companies around the world have another tool in their public relations toolkit. Social media tactics such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are making inroads into the agriculture industry. Monsanto has already had its fingers in many of the social media pies for approximately two years. The company’s YouTube channel features interviews with farmers and discussions about products; its Twitter account and Facebook page mention press releases, new website features or new YouTube videos, as well as answers to questions; and its blog focuses on more personal stories. “We saw a lot of conversation out there about Monsanto and agriculture, and you want to be part of that conversation when it’s happening so we saw an opportunity to make sure there was accurate information available about our company,” says Monsanto media team lead Kelli Powers. Kathleen Manning, social media specialist with Monsanto, says the company now has to think about who its target audience is and how best to reach them, either through social media or traditional media. “We’ve had success over the past year making announcements or sharing news via our blog or our website, and we’ve seen just as much traction in terms of interest among farmer customers and reporters as we would from a traditional press release,” she says, noting social media is also a great way to reach reporters, who often have personal accounts on Twitter and follow others in the agriculture industry. Monsanto is going one step further with its Twitter account by having employees, such as communications manager Nick Weber, tweeting to provide a personal professional perspective. “I sprinkle in some personal stuff because our farmer customers, who we’re trying to have these conversations with, don’t just talk about farming. They might talk about Iowa State football or their favorite band. So I try to add some personal aspects to put a face behind Monsanto,” he says. “And it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to build trust and relationships.”
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“We don’t believe that the traditional methods of communication are going to disappear as some predict, but we do believe that combining social media with traditional media provides a great opportunity to reach a larger audience.” —Shannon Latham, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds
Weber feels implementing social media tactics is more time consuming in the beginning, but once everything is up and running the focus is on maintenance and relationship building. More than Marketing Social media can also be a valuable research tool, according to Weber. “It can help a company get the pulse of agriculture much quicker,” he says. “What’s happening out in the countryside, or what farmers are saying that might be helpful for me in my job.” Shannon Latham, vice president of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds in Alexander, Iowa, agrees that watching conversations on various social media channels is important. “One thing to remember is to listen before you leap; get a feel for what the audience is talking about that day, that week, and remember that first and foremost, when you jump into the conversation, you should be doing so to offer timely, helpful information,” she says. Latham’s goal is to provide useful, relevant information for growers in whatever form they choose to find it, whether it be social media or traditional media. Latham Hi-Tech Seeds located in Alexander, Iowa uses a blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to communicate with its growers. “Our mission is to help farmers feed and fuel the world, so we keep this in mind as we handle our social media accounts,” says Latham. “We do our best to update content daily with helpful information or industry news that’s pertinent to growers.” The company has been blogging for more than two years and using Facebook for about a year but only started using Twitter and YouTube more recently. Latham is pleased with the number of relationships the company has been able to establish using social media. On any given month, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds has approximately 1,000 unique visits to its blog, and currently has about 150 Facebook fans and 150 Twitter followers. As Latham Hi-Tech Seeds continues to grow, Latham believes social marketing will play an even bigger role in helping the company’s sales force spread important information to growers in its area. 72
“We don’t believe that the traditional methods of communication are going to disappear as some predict, but we do believe that combining social media with traditional media provides a great opportunity to reach a larger audience,” she says. Recruitment Tactics Dow AgroSciences is also trying to reach a larger audience through various social media tactics, specifically new recruits. In March 2010, Dow AgroSciences announced an expansion with plans to hire approximately 550 new employees.
“We’re trying to use social media to bolster our presence in the digital landscape and engage people.” —Linda Calvin, Dow AgroSciences
The company is currently using social media such as a Twitter account and a Facebook page to attract new talent. “We’ve really turned up our efforts in using social media for recruitment because it’s a very powerful tool,” says Linda Calvin, Dow AgroSciences global digital marketing manager, noting the initial response has been positive but it’s still too early to tell how successful those efforts will be. Dow AgroSciences has been using Facebook and Twitter for approximately a year, and earlier this year launched a few YouTube channels. The company has also been investigating blogs. “We’re trying to use social media to bolster our presence in the digital landscape and engage people,” says Calvin. Dow AgroSciences also recently experimented with advertising on Facebook, which looks at the likes and interests of people and allows you to display ads to those audiences, says Calvin. “It’s one of those things we’re dipping our toe in to understand the strengths and weaknesses,” she says. Calvin recommends testing various social media tactics to determine which fit best with your company’s goals. There are people in the agricultural industry using social media, she says, and getting on board is a good way to reach them. “It takes time and planning and understanding your target audience and message,” she says. “But banning social media just stifles the conversation.”
on how to deal with those situations, says Calvin. “If someone says this, how do we handle it? It’s not always going to be positive but this could be an opportunity to address a misunderstanding and change someone’s mind,” she says. Shaun Haney of Haney Farms feels social media is a tool that is being underutilized in the agriculture industry because companies are scared of these negative conversations. “Social media provides companies with the opportunity to have a direct conversation with various stakeholders whether that be consumers or people within the industry,” says the owner of Haney Farms in Picture Butte, Alberta, Canada. “And a lot of companies are fearful of that two-way conversation because they’re used to dictating what the message is through advertising campaigns and marketing.” Haney, who has a Facebook page and Twitter account for his small, family-run seed company, believes social media is about engagement, and companies should avoid having stagnant social media. “There are a lot of companies that have a Facebook page or a Twitter account but they have it just to have it,” he says. “They’re not necessarily using it even remotely close to what they could be.” On the flip side, Haney cautions companies about falling into the false trap of thinking social media is the only way to communicate. “These are various tools to communicate to different target markets,” he says. Teresa Falk
Dealing with the Negatives Dow AgroSciences realizes these conversations could include negative comments so the company has developed processes 74
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Plants Do It Too The Global Crop Diversity Trust urges the industry to educate people on the power of plant breeding.
ecently I was being interviewed over the phone by a journalist and was trying to explain why crop diversity is important. “It’s the raw material for plant breeding,” I intoned. Silence on the other end of the line. Then the young woman, whispered “plants breed?” I had never heard anyone take so long to say the word “breed.” There was a stunned almost horrified edge to her voice. My first thought was “didn’t your parents talk to you about all this?” Or maybe a high school biology teacher? Then it dawned on me. She was dealing with a double shock. First, that plants breed. And second, that there are plant breeders! Help Needed It’s summer in Rome. Not that long ago I was walking to work on a carpet of pollen. It coated everything. Sidewalks, terraces, cars, everything. A plant orgy all around me. Street sweepers assembled piles of the stuff and carted it away. The young journalist who called to interview me and got more than she bargained for is probably not so different from many of my neighbors here in Rome. They endure the pollen season—unavoidable evidence of plants breeding—without knowing or asking what’s going on. And, when they shop at the local market and bring home different varieties of apples and peaches and tomatoes, they don’t spend too much time thinking about the sex that lay behind those fruits or the development of the different varieties. When it comes to sex, the difference between wild plants and our domesticated crops is that the latter need help. Yes, help. Farmers replant their crops every year either from saved or purchased seeds. Natural selection does not take place quite the same way for crops as it might for worms or weeds. It is mediated and overseen by people. Professional plant breeders decide which plants will be used to fertilize the others. They do so with a goal in mind: producing a new variety with characteristics drawn from each of the parents. If my young interviewer is reading this, here’s a reminder: it’s like arranging the mating of a poodle and a golden retriever to produce a big friendly dog that doesn’t shed its fur all over the house. In other words, my family’s dog, Billy. With hundreds of pests and diseases striking wheat and with this crop produced in virtually every country and thus in countless different environments, one can easily understand
The value of plant breeding needs to be communicated to the public.
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that wheat needs a hand. A breeder! In far too many countries, however, that person does not exist. When a virulent new wheat disease burst on the scene in Uganda in 1999, that country had no wheat breeders. The disease has spread to the Near East and is headed towards the wheat growing regions of South Asia. A handful of genes that provide resistance have been located. They now need to be incorporated, i.e. bred, into new varieties. Not one or two new varieties, but into all the different varieties tailored to all the diverse places where wheat is grown on the planet. Wheat breeders are justifiably alarmed. If the disease strikes before resistant varieties are developed and deployed, losses of up to 80 percent can be expected. So the stakes are high, which is what makes plant breeding and plant breeders so important. A Neglected Pipeline Thomas Jefferson may have believed that “the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” But in the intervening centuries since the principal author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence made that observation, plant breeding has been debased. Not just in the U.S., but globally. An FAO survey of plant breeders revealed that most felt that plant breeding capacity was declining—declining for grains, vegetables, fruits, roots and tubers, everything, ironically, except sugar plants. We have all become dependent on a tenuous cadre of plant breeders, the collections of crop diversity with which they work, and good luck. Indeed, investments in plant breeding have languished or even declined, while the number of hungry has climbed over a billion. There’s a connection. As much as we love food, we take its production for granted. “It is no doubt a curse that we do not properly value what has been freely given as long as we are its daily beneficiaries,” as Robert Pogue Harrison observed. As a youngster I accompanied my maternal grandmother each fall on a visit to the agricultural experiment station for western Tennessee, in the U.S. There she surveyed row after row of new soybean, cotton and corn varieties with her own eyes. She asked questions about their characteristics. Did they have this or that resistance? How did they stand up to the heat? What yield might she expect? My grandmother understood plant breeding and realized the value of having new crop varieties that kept pace with the enemy (in those days her nemesis was a tiny insect that targeted her cotton). It strikes me now that she was better armed for the struggle back in the 1950s than millions of farmers are in Africa or almost anywhere in the developing world today. There was a system, a pipeline, delivering crop improvements and solutions. In many countries, particularly in Africa, you could round up all the plant breeders and put them in a single mini-van for a trip to the fields. There are that few involved. FAO’s Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building has assembled the sad statistics. 78
Investments in plant breeding have languished or even declined, while the number of hungry has climbed over a billion.
In country after country, major crops lack a single breeder. Thus no new varieties are produced and offered to farmers. Last year’s variety—even last decade’s variety—competes against this year’s pest, disease and climate. It’s not a fair match. The few plant breeders that toil away do so against heavy odds in order to serve a huge clientele. One of the most reliable ways of bettering those odds is to increase the diversity our breeders can access. Just as our domesticated crops need help to breed, plant breeders and farmers need help to do their breeding. They require a rich store of crop diversity, the richer the better, with which to practice their art. Our singular job at the Trust is to help make that plant breeding possible—and food security more likely—by conserving the required crop diversity and making it available for breeding all around the world. In our spare time we shock innocent young journalists. Editor’s Note: Reprinted with permission from the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
This article is part of a series produced by the Global Crop Diversity Trust. To find out more about the Trust and sign up to receive these articles regularly, please visit www.croptrust.org.
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Keeping Track of Global Information Gathering information is easy, but sorting through it is tougher.
nformation overload is a common complaint. If you have a computer with internet access, you can gather facts and figures, opinions and overviews from information sources located anywhere in the world. You can scroll through pages of data and read thousands of reports. But as we now realize, it’s not the quantity of information that matters, but the quality and ease of access. And who has time to spend hours searching online for tidbits of information crucial to their business? For example, the approaching expiration of Roundup Ready soybean patents could lead farmers in the United States and Canada to plant so-called “generic” versions of RR seeds that lack approval in some markets, such as China and the European Union. What steps will be necessary to ensure North American crops still meet international requirements? This issue is being discussed by the North American seed industry as the patents’ expiration dates approach. Keeping up-to-date on this and other issues makes good business sense. “I value my time, and I want to spend it wisely,” says Bill Romp of Becker Underwood. “Being able to go to one reliable online source to keep current on the local and international seed industries is ideal. I can get the latest news, and stay informed about important issues facing my business.” With this in mind, communications and industry expert Shawn Brook and his team at Issues Ink offer seed industry members a cost-effective way to easily access critical business information. The publishing and communications company
came up with a solution called SeedConnect, an online resource for everyone involved in the global seed industry. Through SeedConnect, readers can access digital versions of leading international seed industry magazines, and target the specific type of information they seek using a computer or mobile device. As well, SeedConnect subscribers receive a print version of their selected “home” region’s publication. “The global seed industry is ever-changing in terms of research and technological breakthroughs, regulatory guidelines and business standards. It’s tough to stay current on all issues affecting your business,” says Brook. “SeedConnect is a unique tool specifically designed for seed industry professionals to use on a regular basis to access clean, concise, third-party information about the seed industry that they can use when making business decisions.” Launched in 2010, SeedConnect not only contains valuable information on international seed industry developments, but also keeps subscribers connected to local seed associations, information sources and government. SeedConnect’s key partners are Seed World, the source for issues in the American seed industry; Germination, which serves the Canadian seed industry; and Seed News, which focuses on the South American seed industry. “We are working to finalize partnerships in Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia to create even more relevant information for seed industry professionals pursuing a global business path,” says Brook. Andrea Geary
“Being able to go to one reliable online source to keep current on the local and international seed industries is ideal. I can get the latest news, and stay informed about important issues facing my business.” —Bill Romp, Becker Underwood 80
Saving Seed for the Future Photo Credit - Mari Tefre/Svalbard Global Seed Vault
A growing seed vault at Svalbard might be the key to Earth’s food security.
ying halfway between Norway’s northern coast and the North Pole, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, nicknamed the Doomsday Vault, has a highly effective natural security system. Polar bears living on Svalbard Island regularly wander past the outermost steel door of the vault, and their presence, teamed with three locked interior doors, the vault’s isolated location and monitoring by the Nordic Genetic Resource Center, greatly reduces the likelihood of a break-in. Why the high security? The vault’s valuable contents may one day save people from starvation. The vault celebrated its third anniversary in February and since opening, scientists in countries around the world have sent carefully packaged seeds to this remote location for storage within the vault. The vault’s three storage chambers are filled with metal shelves holding securely fastened boxes. It’s what’s inside those boxes that could hold the key to the world’s future. José Manuel Durão Barroso, president of the European Commission, sums it up best when he says the vault holds “a frozen garden of Eden.” Constructing a Safe Storage Site The impetus for constructing a secure facility to house seeds from around the world began in 2004 when the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was adopted. This international legal framework aims to guarantee food security through conservation, exchange and 84
sustainable use of the world’s plant genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing arising from their use. The seed vault is managed through an agreement between the Norwegian government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center, which oversees the seed database, additions to and removal of the stored seed and vault maintenance.
The vault holds “a frozen garden of Eden.” —José Manuel Durão Barroso, European Commission Norway’s government paid the approximately $9 million construction cost for the vault, which is built into a mountainside near the small community of Longyearbyen. Longyearbyen has an airport with regularly scheduled flights, and also a port open year-round, so seed shipments can arrive by air or sea. To protect again the possibility of damage from rising sea levels caused by global warming, the vault’s entrance is more than 400 feet above sea level. An earthquake, measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale, struck the area shortly before the vault opened and tested its sturdy construction within a rock face. Seed World
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Photo Credit - Mari Tefre/Svalbard Global Seed Vault
With approximately 650,000 samples on its shelves, it now holds the most diverse collection of seeds anywhere on the planet.
Refrigeration lowers the vault’s interior temperature to -18 Celsius, providing an environment where seeds can be safely stored for years. Permafrost, with a temperature of about -5 Celsius, surrounds the vault, so if the refrigeration units fail, the interior temperature will remain relatively low, protecting the seeds. The Svalbard vault offers secure seed storage not available in many countries. Most recently, the Egyptian Deserts Gene Bank in North Sinai was damaged by looters during an episode of political unrest, with equipment stolen and the cooling system damaged. Seed collections in Iraq and Afghanistan have also been looted, while a rice collection in the Philippines was threatened in a typhoon. “However, the greatest danger facing gene banks is far less dramatic and much more insidious—the lack of reliable funding,” says Julian Laird, director of development and communications with the Global Crop Diversity Trust. David Ellis, curator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colo., says some poorer countries store their seed collections without refrigeration or moisture control, thus limiting the seeds’ viability.
samples of unique seeds from their gene banks, and is financing the deposit of samples from the international collections of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. To date, 480,000 seed samples have been deposited with Trust support.
Shipping Seed to Svalbard Ellis estimates over 55,000 unique seed samples—about 20 percent of the entire U.S. seed collection—have been shipped to the Svalbard vault. This makes the USDA the largest public contributor to the Svalbard collection. While the USDA has a well-established network of 20 seed banks within the country, and partners with Canada for back-up storage locations, Ellis says storing seed at Svalbard is important. “It adds a third secure place where we can store our collection,” he explains. Ken Richards, research manager with Plant Gene Resources of Canada, estimates that Canada has sent about 20,000 samples, representing over 250 plant species, to the vault. Predominant among these samples are dozens of unique barley, oat and wheat varieties, as Canada has a global mandate for the safe preservation of barley and oat seed. Laird says the Global Crop Diversity Trust is assisting developing countries with preparing, packaging and transporting
Preserving a Vital Resource Unlike most government-run seed banks, the seed held in the Svalbard vault can’t be withdrawn by anyone other than the owner. In this “black box” arrangement, there is no transfer of ownership of seeds stored in the vault. Laird says, from the Trust’s point-of-view, the Svalbard vault has been incredibly successful. With approximately 650,000 samples on its shelves, it now holds the most diverse collection of seeds anywhere on the planet after only three years of operation. “This success is due to the rapid up-take of the idea, and the widespread interest among gene banks in the facility, which the Norwegian government has built for the benefit of all,” he says. It is possible that one day seed held in Svalbard might be used to regenerate species on the verge of extinction or to add genetic fodder to strengthen a species fighting for survival against an insect pest or plant disease—a true measure of success.
For more information on the Svalbord Global Seed Vault, visit www.croptrust.org. Seed World
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An in-depth overview on the global seed industry. From a conference in Brussels on improving innovation in the plant sector to China’s renewed emphasis on its seed sector.
A look at seed industry developments around the globe.
In mid-May, the European Technology Platform “Plants for the Future” held a highlevel conference in Brussels on how to improve the flow of plant innovation in Europe. Major stakeholders of the technology platform were the European Plant Science Organization, COPA-COGECA (a European farmers’ organization) and the European Seed Association, as well as a number of individual plant breeding companies. The purpose of the conference was to identify key areas for improvement such as barriers to innovation and methods to overcome them, ways in which ongoing and future research programs may contribute to promote marketdriven solutions, and which objectives should be met to boost innovation in the plant sector. For more information on the outcomes, visit www. plantetp.org. The European Seed Association will hold its annual meeting and the European Seed Trade meeting October 16-18, 2011. For the first time, this meeting will not take place in Brussels but in the capital city of one of the member states—Budapest, Hungary. In making this decision, ESA follows the request
of many of its members. It is convinced the new location will provide excellent opportunities for participants not only to discuss the latest political, scientific and market developments in plant breeding, seed production and seed marketing, but also to specifically focus on Central and Eastern Europe, where the sector has undergone fundamental changes over the past decade. See page eight for a more indepth overview of what’s new in Europe from ESA secretary general Garlich von Essen.
The 11th Annual African Seed Trade Association Congress was held March 7-10, 2011 in Lilongwe, Malawi, and attracted 200 delegates from all over the world. The Congress was officially opened by Malawi’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Margaret Mauwa. She emphasized the importance of access for African farmers to certified seed and farm inputs as a means of ensuring food security on the continent. Mauwa urged participants to come up with credible solutions for improving Africa’s trade in quality seed.
While addressing the Congress during the opening ceremony, AFSTA president Enock Chikava called on the seed industry to play a leading role in the quest to feed Africa’s rapidly growing population. Chikava noted that new technologies are needed to achieve Africa’s Green Revolution. The theme of the eleventh AFSTA Annual Congress 2011 was on “achieving food security through increased access to quality seed by African farmers.” The congress presented delegates and seed companies with an excellent opportunity to display their products, advance their seed business interests, and strengthen their knowledge of various seed trade-related issues. The congress underscored the importance of using modern biotechnology to develop drought-tolerant seed varieties to help protect Africa against the devastating impacts of climate change and variability. Prior to the congress, the Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties facilitated a half-day workshop to discuss developments in plant variety protection in Africa, means of enforcing breeders’ rights, and licensing protected varieties. The AFSTA General Assembly
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confirmed that the AFSTA Annual Congress 2012 will be held in Tanzania next March.
China’s seed industry is experiencing massive growth. This spring, China’s Vice Premier Hui Liangyu urged local governments to give top priority to establishing a modern seed industry in order to promote the stable development of the country’s agriculture sector and ensure food security. Relevant local authorities should include breeding highquality seeds in their efforts to boost agricultural innovation and develop a modern agricultural system, Liangyu said at a national work conference on developing a modern seed industry held in Changsha, the capital city of central China’s Hunan Province. “All regions and departments concerned should step up efforts to accelerate the seed industry’s modernization and strive to transition from a traditional seed industry to a modern one,” he said. He called for increased efforts to advance technical innovation in breeding top-quality seeds, promote seed enterprises’
competitiveness through mergers and restructuring, strengthen policy support to ensure seed supplies, and enhance seed market supervision.
industry is the capital that is invested in research. Research investments are generally long-term, and many require significant amounts of capital resources and entail large risks.
Meanwhile, the Asian and Pacific Seed Association announced that Japan, which was to host this year’s Asian Seed Conference, was forced to cancel due to the recent earthquake and tsunami. The conference was to be held in November.
The Seed Association of the Americas is a nongovernmental organization that fully represents the interests of the seed industry within countries in South, Central and North America. SAA has many projects and workshops in progress to educate and support development, marketing and free movement of seed within the Americas.
The statement also claims that the level of investment in the seed industry is directly related to the effectiveness of the intellectual property protection available. In order to attract the size and scope of investment necessary to develop improved products, whether they are varietal, hybrid or from biotechnology, investors must have the opportunity to earn competitive returns on their original investments. SAA members, therefore, are unanimously in favor of a strong intellectual property protection system, which will ensure an acceptable return on research investment, and encourage further research efforts in plant breeding.
Intellectual Property SAA distributed an official statement on IP in December 2010. SAA recognizes that the protection of intellectual property rights is essential for the sound development of the seed industry in the Americas. One of the key drivers of innovation within any
Phytosanitary The second workshop on phytosanitary measures organized by SAA was held at Montevideo, Uruguay in September 2010. Directors and high-level officials from five COSAVE countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay),
plus all North American Plant Protection Organization members, as well as the executive directors from both NAPPO and COSAVE, a representative from Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, a number of specialized industry staff from different countries of the continent, the International Seed Federation, the Centre for Agricultural BioscienceInternational and SAA participated in the workshop. During the workshop, 27 speakers covering 11 important topics discussed their points-of-view related to seed trade and how phytosanitary regulations affect it. A general consensus emerged that there is a new trend in trading seeds worldwide that includes increased quantities, multiple destinations and reexports. These factors were identified as the “new seed paradigm of trade.” The third Seed Congress of the Americas will take place September 28-29, 2011 in Santiago de Chile.
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The Future Prospects of Biotech Crops Hear from some of the bright lights in the seed industry. Updated monthly, find the Giant Views of the Industry and From the Floor video clips at SeedWorld.com and Germination.ca.
In this video, Clive James of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications predicts a cautious but optimistic view of how biotechnology can make a substantial contribution to crop productivity from 2010-2015.
“We’re not opposed to transgenic technology; we’re just an alternative to transgenic technology.” David Voss of Cibus “We’re expecting in the next 5-10 years an additional 90 traits and if you add combinations of those traits that number could even get higher.” Janice Tranberg of CropLife Canada
Hear more views from Voss and Tranberg, as well as other seed professionals, on issues ranging from biotechnology to new traits at SeedWorld.com and Germination.ca.
http://alturl.com/yams4 Meanwhile, in a second video James gives a comprehensive review of the global status of biotech crops in 2010. http://alturl.com/g59gi
Online Module Explains Plant Genetic Resources Bioversity International has recently published a new online training module called the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and its Standard Material Transfer Agreement. The module aims to “explain the Treaty in the context of other international agreements and how to use its SMTA to exchange crop diversity.” In addition, the module provide tips in the conduct of various activities associated with plant genetic resources including the understanding of legislation related to access of genetic resources, intellectual property rights relevant to research on plant genetic resources, and various materials to further enhance the capacity of scientists working on plant genetic resources research and conservation. Materials are available in English, French and Spanish. http://alturl.com/e9b8e
Study Pinpoints Training Needs for Future Plant Breeders Recent graduates from plant breeding programs need more than scientific know-how to support this increasingly important part of the agricultural industry. To be effective plant breeders, they should also be equipped with strong critical thinking and time management skills, and a well-founded work ethic. This was the conclusion reached by researchers at UC Davis, who surveyed more than 200 experts in the field about the most important components of programs training students to be plant breeders. http://alturl.com/zr3bb
Keep up with all the seed industry events at SeedQuest.com
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Ireland’s Agriculture Industry Interesting facts and numbers
percent—The amount of protein feed for Ireland’s livestock that comes from soy and maize by-products produced in North and South America.
percent—The amount of employment that the agriculture and food sectors in Ireland account for. Meanwhile, agriculture and food account for 10 percent of total exports.
percent—The number of Irish farms that are livestock specialists.
percent—The number of Irish farms that have less than 20 hectares, while 21 percent have more than 50 hectares.
million—The amount that Ireland’s horticulture production contributed to the country’s total farm output in 2009.
—The amount of Ireland’s average family farm income in 2009, a decline of 30 percent from 2008 (€16,993).
hectares—The area sown to cereals in Ireland in 2010, down 11 percent compared to 2009.
—The year Ireland assumed a seat on the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and will be a Member of the Council until 2014.
Sources: Irish Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; European Union Farm Structure Survey 2007, Teagasc (Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority) 96
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2011 International Seed Conference