Monsanto and Novozymes jointly announced a “long-term strategic alliance to transform research and commercialization of sustainable microbial products that will provide a new platform of solutions for growers around the world.”
The BioAg Alliance will allow the companies to leverage employees, technologies and commercial assets in the companies’ agricultural biologicals portfolios. The BioAg Alliance is unique in the industry, bringing together Novozymes’ commercial BioAg operations and capabilities within microbial discovery, development and production with Monsanto’s microbial discovery, advanced biology, field testing and commercial capabilities. The result will be a comprehensive research, development and commercial collaboration to help farmers globally meet the challenge of producing more with less in a sustainable way – for the benefit of agriculture, consumers, the environment and society at large.
“As the world population grows at tremendous pace over the next decades, we need to significantly increase the output from our land without increasing the pressure on the environment,” says Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes. “Today, we forge a game-changing alliance with the potential to transform global agriculture. The combined capabilities of Novozymes and Monsanto create an innovation powerhouse with a unique opportunity and approach to unleash the transformational opportunity in naturally derived microbial solutions in agriculture.”
“Monsanto, Novozymes and the farmer customers we serve share a need to meet growing demand in a sustainable way, and investing in the research and development of agricultural biological technologies like microbials is another step in that direction and a natural extension of our core business,” says Robb Fraley, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer of Monsanto. “Just as Monsanto has done with leadership investments in our precision agriculture platform, we see this collaboration as being the same type of catalyst for taking our biologicals work from a technology to a full-fledged platform that represents the next layer of opportunity for growers to drive yield and productivity while helping the preservation of finite natural resources in our precious planet.”
The companies held a press call in which you can listen to here: Monsanto/Novozymes Bioag Alliance Call
An alliance of organizations supporting biotech crops has named a leader to help “spearhead collaborative efforts to improve the environment for technology innovation and the market for U.S. crops produced through modern biotechnology.”
Dr. Michael J. Phillips has been selected as the first secretariat for the U.S. Biotech Crops Alliance (USBCA), which was established by several organizations under a memorandum of understanding signed in 2012. The USBCA has been developing and working to “implement consensus positions on key policy issues designed to improve the introduction, stewardship, domestic and international regulatory policy, and distribution in U.S. and export markets of commodities and processed products containing or derived from modern biotechnology.”
In his capacity as secretariat, Phillips will be the focal point of the group’s efforts to further advance the reach, work and wide range of activities being pursued under the expanding broad-based national initiative that currently consists of 11 influential national organizations representing U.S. biotechnology providers; seed, grain and oilseed producers; grain handlers, feed manufacturers, grain processors and millers; exporters; and other end-users. The secretariat also will serve a key role in helping develop and implement consensus positions on specific policy issues.
Phillips is president of MJ Phillips and Associates LLC, an agricultural consulting firm that specializes in agricultural biotechnology issues, and prior to that was vice president for science and regulatory policy for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
The USBCA’s founding organizations include National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, American Seed Trade Association, Biotechnology Industry Organization, National Grain and Feed Association, and North American Export Grain Association. Other national organizations now members of USBCA are American Farm Bureau Federation, Corn Refiners Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, U.S. Grains Council and U.S. Soybean Export Council.
I was happy to see National Corn Growers Association Chairwoman Pam Johnson of Iowa at the World Food Prize symposium last week and interested to find out that she was a Truth About Trade and Technology Global Farmer Roundtable alumni.
Pam had a seat at the global roundtable in 2010 and she was pleased to reconnect with some of her fellow alumni during the symposium. “There were 20 of us from all over the world,” she said. “We’re all still working and engaged in agriculture in some way to be a leader and to explain why it is biotechnology is so important as a tool for food security.”
Pam was also very pleased with the focus on agricultural biotechnology at World Food Prize this year with the winners all being scientists who have pioneered its development. “Biotechnology is size neutral, it’s good for everyone,” she said, adding that World Food Prize is a great place “for the personal stories and the truth to get out.” Interview with NCGA Chair Pam Johnson
2013 TATT Global Farmer Roundtable photos
2013 World Food Prize photos
Three biotechnology scientists are being honored at the World Food Prize ceremony in Des Moines tonight, but yesterday they met the press and answered some tough questions about the technology they have dedicated their lives to developing.
The 2013 World Food Prize Laureates are Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Dr. Robert Fraley, Marc Van Montagu of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta Biotechnology. All have achieved breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology.
The first question asked by a reporter was basically, why is Monsanto such a target for critics of biotechnology? “Sometimes that’s frustrating,” said Fraley. “I always assume that means we’ve been really successful and people see us as a leader and that’s part of the responsibility that goes with it.”
Chilton with Syngenta said she didn’t really understand why Monsanto is the main target of critics but she believes the industry as a whole needs to “have good communications with the public about the safety” of the technology.
Van Montagu believes that the critics have singled out Monsanto as the “villain” because it works better than talking about the industry as a whole. “If you start gossiping about a person, people always start believing gossip – humanity is like that,” he said.
Some interesting stuff here: World Food Prize Laureates press conference
2013 World Food Prize photos
Truth About Trade and Technology (TATT) is a non-profit advocacy group led by farmers who support freer trade and a farmers freedom to choose the tools, technologies and strategies they need to maximize productivity and profitability in a sustainable manner. Since 2006, TATT has brought farmers from different countries together during World Food Prize week in Des Moines to attend the event and share their knowledge and experiences with each other. This year there were 16 farmers from 14 countries at the Roundtable, all with different backgrounds and experiences but common challenges and aspirations.
Mary Boote, Chief Executive Officer for TATT, is the one who organizes and brings these farmers together and hosts them while they are in Des Moines for the World Food Prize. Mary says since they started the roundtable, they have hosted 98 farmers from 63 different countries and she takes great pride in the fact that alumni want to stay in touch and work together as they go back to their countries. Listen to my interview with Mary here: Interview with Mary Boote
TATT chairman and Iowa farmer Bill Horan says the farmers sitting around the table have such similar stories to tell, yet they have so much to learn from one another. “Farmers, large and small, around the world seem to be dealing with some of the same issues – access to technology, credit, trade barriers,” said Horan, adding that the farmers from other countries bring lots of new information back home. “When these folks go back to their own country, they’re treated like rock stars.” Interview with Bill Horan
2013 TATT Global Farmer Roundtable photos
Kemin Industries Worlwide, that’s who knew.
During the Truth About Trade and Technology (TATT) Global Farmer Roundtable, we learned that Kemin is the largest grower of marigolds (yes, that not so fragrant flower you often plant in your flower beds) to extract the Lutein, a naturally occurring carotenoid – which happens to help prevent eye diseases such as macular degeneration. So, Kemin Industries grows the marigolds to extract the lutein to your vitamins and nutrients so that the largest growing section of the population can keep their sight longer.
Another crop that Kemin cultivates for its molecular benefits is rosemary, which is full of antioxidants. It’s weeded by hand and due to the high concentration of essential oils, bacteria and insects generally stay away. Oregano and spearmint are also grown by Kemin for research in the MidWest and around the world. They have fascinating ways of doing cross pollination and with their rosemary production they have just been recognized for sustainability.
Dr. John Greaves, Vice-President of Specialty Crops for Kemin Industries, explains more about what they do with these special specialty crops in this interview. Interview with Kemin Industries Vice President of Specialty Crops
2013 TATT Global Farmer Roundtable photos
One of the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates stopped by to visit the Truth About Trade and Technology Global Farmer Roundtable and talk about the importance of helping farmers around the world produce food more efficiently.
“I’m always reminded by what Dr. Borlaug used to say, that hunger never sleeps, and that means we can’t sleep either,” said Dr. Robert T. (Robb) Fraley, Chief Technology Officer for Monsanto.
Dr. Fraley recalled a visit with Norman Borlaug towards the end of his life just a few years ago and how excited the “Father of the Green Revolution” was to hear about molecular breeding and gene sequencing. “And Norm says ‘I can see how the Green and Gene Revolutions are going to come together,’” said Fraley. “From a science perspective, that’s exactly what has happened.”
Fraley says explaining the importance and safety of biotech crops to the general public is a big challenge for the industry. “This is important to all consumers,” he said. “We’ve got to talk to consumers in the context of food security, food prices, the benefits of an affordable food system, the urgency of these tools for the rest of the world and the fact that by farming more efficiently and using less inputs, we dramatically reduce the impact that agriculture could have on the environment.” He also advocates the use of social media to communicate with the public and recently started his own Twitter account.
Dr. Fraley will be honored this week with the 2013 World Food Prize along with fellow biotechnology scientists Marc Van Montagu of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta Biotechnology.
Listen to my conversation with Dr. Fraley here: Interview with Monsanto's Robb Fraley
2013 TATT Global Farmer Roundtable photos
Kemin Industries Worldwide hosted the 2013 Truth About Trade and Technology (TATT) Global Farmer Roundtable just ahead of the start of the World Food Prize in Des Moines today. Kemin is changing the world by taking their molecular technology and using it in different products around the world. You probably don’t even know that you’ve even consumed one of their products.
R.W. and Mary Nelson started the company in 1961 with a mere $10,000 investment. Today the company has nearly 2,000 employees with revenues exceeding $500 million. They have operations in more the 90 countries and about 200 patents.
I sat down with R.W. after he spoke to the group to learn more about this fascinating company. Interview with Kemin Industries founder R.W. Nelson
Lots more to come this week from the TATT Global Farmer Roundtable and World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogues. We’ll have two photo albums – one just for TATT GFR and one for WFP.
2013 TATT Global Farmer Roundtable photos
While we were in Argentina last week, BASF held a ribbon cutting to officially open its $33 million facility expansion in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
“This expansion demonstrates BASF’s strong commitment to Agricultural Solutions and strengthens our research and development capabilities”, said Peter Eckes, President BASF Plant Science. “This investment demonstrates our commitment to our employees, our neighbors and the state of North Carolina.”
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, Commissioner Steve Troxler, U.S. Representative David Price, Mayor of Durham William Bell and other guests from government, business and academia were invited to join BASF employees at the event.
“A significant share of BASF’s insecticide research is conducted in RTP. These larger facilities will enable us to evaluate our promising insecticide candidates faster,” said Nevin McDougall, Senior Vice President, BASF Crop Protection North America.
The facilities include a climate-controlled greenhouse and laboratories for plant biotechnology research and a new environmentally-controlled insect production facility to expand insect control research.
Photo courtesy of BASF. Pictured left to right: Congressman G.K. Butterfield, Congressman David Price, President of BASF Plant Science Peter Eckes, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, Senior Vice President of BASF Crop Protection Nevin McDougall and City of Durham Mayor William Dell.
We did get to hear from a high ranking official in the Argentine government during the IFAJ Congress this week – but not in English and there was no opportunity to ask questions.
Lorenzo Basso’s title is Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture of Argentina, so not exactly the equal to Tom Vilsack in the U.S., more like Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden.
Some interesting takeaways from his comments:
Argentina is able to feed ten times its population of 40 million people
Argentina is the number one exporter of soybean oil, soybean meal, biodiesel, pears, lemons, lemon juice, and honey.
Four pillars for “smart agriculture” they are adopting in Argentina are:
- No till practices – 80% of farms now
- Crop rotation – working on that, nearly 50% is soybeans
- Biotechnology, pesticides and stewardship
- Precision agriculture technology – growing rapidly
Poultry production in the country has adopted new technology and become more competitive but beef industry needs to do more to produce more calves since birth rate for calves is the same as it was 50 years ago.
I recorded some of the Secretary’s comments through my headphones with the interpreter. He also discusses ethanol production, dairy, value-added agribusiness and much more: Argentine Agriculture Secretary Lorenzo Bosso
2013 IFAJ Congress Photo Album
This just goes to show that we need to be ever vigilant these days when it comes to our electronic communications.
A very official looking release came in by email today with the headline “Mexico Grants Monsanto Approval To Plant Large-Scale GM Corn Fields.” It had technical details about varieties and quotes from Monsanto and Mexican officials. Without double-checking on it, we went ahead and posted it as worded, although we did notice it had not been posted on the Monsanto website.
We were quickly notified by Monsanto that it was hoax and we immediately pulled the post down. A post on the Monsanto Blog explains that the release came from “an unidentified cyber group” that developed and posted a deceptive web page called www.monsantoglobal.com designed to appear as though it was posted by Monsanto. “This page and its related communications, including a fake news release entitled “Mexico Grants Monsanto Approval To Plant Large-Scale GM Corn Fields,” are an intentional misrepresentation and are not in any way associated with our company.” Monsanto officials further say that information on this “hoax web site and its related communication properties has been turned over to the appropriate authorities to further investigate the matter.”
We admit it – we got scammed. You can be sure that this was a lesson learned for us – check our sources before we post or tweet, just in case.
Increasing demand for major crops and the use of biotechnology in agriculture was the topic during the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture in New York on Tuesday.
The main lecturer, Dr. Stephen Long, Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, said the demand for major crops is expected to rise 50 percent by 2030. He also emphasized that the use of commodities for energy as well as food and feed comes at a time when increases in yield are stagnating. However, he pointed out that new biotechnological approaches are providing opportunities to overcome these limitations, but that societal and policy acceptance of these opportunities is likely the greatest barrier.
A panel following the lecture included National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation president Richard Bonanno, and Director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Sonny Ramaswamy – who participated in last week’s IFAMA World Forum.
“The continued use of biotechnology in agriculture is a key component to food security,” Johnson said. “However, we need to greatly improve the public’s acceptance of biotechnology. Agriculture needs to lead the conversation on this important topic and provide education on the advancements of the industry. Consumers should be able to make decisions based on science and facts, not fearmongering.”
The Charles Valentine Riley Memorial Lecture at AAAS is in honor of Professor Riley’s legacy as a “whole picture” person with a vision for enhancing agriculture through scientific knowledge. The AAAS Riley Lecture addresses timely topics such as the role food, agriculture and natural resources play in providing a secure food supply and a sustainable economy.
Novozymes has signed a definitive agreement to acquire TJ Technologies Inc. based in Watertown, South Dakota. The move was made in an effort to continue to build Novozymes’ business in the BioAgriculture sector. TJ Technologies specializes in bioyield enhancement.
“With this acquisition we continue to build our business within sustainable bioagriculture. TJ Technologies Inc. is a frontrunner in bioyield enhancers, and this acquisition will further underpin Novozymes’ position, while strengthening commercial access,” said Thomas Videbæk, Executive Vice President of Novozymes and head of Business Development. “Combining our existing products and leading global name with TJ Technologies’ strong and proven portfolio, brands and regional market coverage will strengthen the joint company’s commercial position in important crop markets.”
TJ Technologies was founded in 1978 and develops and markets proprietary microbial and micronutrient products for agriculture. It is a significant participant in the U.S. market for bioyield enhancement products, with a strong position in seed treatment of corn as well as other important crops.
“With its proven portfolio of products and new pipeline opportunities, TJ Technologies’ talented employees will add solid experience and knowhow to Novozymes, which can leverage its leading position to bring the existing products to market, and further develop new innovation and growth opportunities for the bioagriculture market,” added Videbæk.
Monsanto officials held a press call on Friday regarding “suspicious” evidence in the investigation of genetically engineered wheat plants found in an Oregon field last month that suggests it was possibly intentionally planted.
“The evidence now collected, the fact patterns established and the original Roundup Ready CP-4 event appearing suddenly after 12 years, out of nowhere in a single field in the state of Oregon is highly suspicious,” said Monsanto Vice President and Director of Technology Robb Fraley, stressing that they don’t know the grower or the field or have the plant samples available. However, “the more data we generate, the more clarity we’re getting on this, and the more suspicious it looks.”
When pressed by reporters, Fraley said, “It’s fair to say that there are folks who don’t like biotechnology and would use this as an opportunity to create problems.” He also pointed to the recent destruction of two sugar beet fields in the state of Oregon by anti-GMO activists.
Monsanto's Robb Fraley
The 130th ASTA annual meeting gave attendees an opportunity to receive an update on the progress of the Accord initiative that is a joint effort of ASTA with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). “The Accord is an industry-led framework that is meant to address situations when biotech events go off patent and how we maintain the regulatory approvals worldwide for those events,” Bernice Slutsky, Senior Vice President for Domestic and International Policy for ASTA, said. Accord includes two major agreements, the Generic Event Marketability and Access Agreement (GEMAA) and the Data Use and Compensation Agreement (DUCA).
The update provided at ASTA’s annual meeting informed ASTA members that the GEMAA had been completed and open for signatures and currently has 10 signatures. The DUCA is scheduled to be completed and opened by the end of the year. “The DUCA is a larger agreement. It is meant to address some of the more complicated regulatory issues associated with stacked products,” Slutsky said.
According to Slutsky, the framework will hopefully ensure that farmers and stakeholders will be able to continue to trade their products uninterrupted as the biotechnology events go off patent.
Listen to an interview with Slutsky conducted by Meghan Grebner, Brownfield Ag News, here: Interview with Bernice Slutsky
ASTA Annual Meeting Photo Album
The 2013 World Food Prize will honor three distinguished scientists – Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States.
Building upon the scientific discovery of the Double Helix structure of DNA in the 1950s, Van Montagu, Chilton, and Fraley each conducted groundbreaking molecular research on how a plant bacterium could be adapted as a tool to insert genes from another organism into plant cells, which could produce new genetic lines with highly favorable traits.
The revolutionary biotechnology discoveries of these three individuals – each working in separate facilities on two continents – unlocked the key to plant cell transformation using recombinant DNA. Their work led to the development of a host of genetically enhanced crops, which, by 2012, were grown on more than 170 million hectares around the globe by 17.3 million farmers, over 90 percent of whom were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries.
From their work in the laboratory to applying biotechnology innovations in farmers’ fields, the combined achievements of the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates have contributed significantly to increasing the quantity and availability of food.
As most agricultural eyes were on progress of the farm bill last week in Congress, some very prominent farmers were in another nation’s capitol below the equator signing a new agreement to create an alliance between North and South American corn growers.
Leaders of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), joined with maize producers of Argentina and Brazil (MAIZAR and ABRAMILHO) to form MAIZALL—The International Maize Alliance with the goal of addressing key issues concerning food security, biotechnology, stewardship, trade and producer image. The MAIZALL alliance was launched as part of the MAIZAR 2013 Congress meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Food Security is a priority for every country,” said Pam Johnson, NCGA President. “Countries can be food secure without being self-sufficient by establishing relationships and building trust with exporting countries to be long-term, reliable suppliers of quality feed and food supplies.”
The primary focus of this new alliance is emphasize the need for better consumer understanding of production agriculture, including the benefits of biotechnology and advancing the global acceptance on the capacity to produce maize for feed, food and fuel. MAIZALL will also conduct outreach to governments and stakeholders on the need for trade-enabling biotechnology policies and regulatory procedures.
Read more from USGC and see a set of photos here.
CropLife Foundation (CLF) is publishing a comprehensive report next year on “The Role of Precision Seed Protection in Modern Crop Production” and preliminary findings of the report were presented today at the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) Corn & Sorghum Seed Research Conference 2012 & Seed Expo.
CLF chairman of the board Jay Vroom says the report outlines the benefits of using pesticides for sustainable crop production.
“Precision seed protection, as part of an integrated pest management system and when combined responsibly with other crop protection products, makes it possible for U.S. farmers to grow more resilient crops that can withstand harsh climate conditions and provide consumers more healthy and nutritious food choices,” said Vroom. “CLF looks forward to the publication of this report in the spring and sharing important findings on the benefits of precision seed protection for modern agriculture.”
Read more about it from CLF and listen to my interview with Jay here: Interview with Jay Vroom
ASTA-CSS Photo Album
Patents for the very first ag biotech “events,” as they are called, will be expiring and becoming “generic” in 2015. This creates opportunities for growers and the seed industry, but also creates challenges that must be addressed – and that is the purpose of “The Accord”.
American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) Vice President for Science and International Affairs Bernice Slutsky presided over an update for seed industry representatives today at the ASTA CSS 2012 & Seed Expo. “The Accord is a framework that we developed to provide a mechanism for that transition from proprietary biotech events to off-patent or generic biotech events,” Bernice explained. “The real driver for us developing the Accord was that even though these events are going off patent, they are still highly regulated worldwide.”
So, the immediate goal was to develop a framework to assure that the necessary regulatory authorizations for the events are maintained, and most importantly, that commodity trade can continue unhindered.
Bernice explains more about how the Accord was developed in cooperation with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and what it means for farmers in this interview: Interview with Bernice Slutsky
The first part of the Accord, called the Generic Event Marketability and Access Agreement (GEMAA), was opened up for the first signatures on October 31.
John Schoenecker of vegetable seed company H.M. Clause, who is second vice chair for ASTA and part of the negotiating group for the Accord, says they have now gotten the initial signatories in place to put the GEMAA into effect and ASTA is moving forward with providing information to other interested parties. “Feedback has been good, lots of questions of course,” he said about reaction to the Accord from ASTA membership. “Their seed association has worked very hard in their interests to craft an agreement that will give opportunities to the industry and fulfill the industry’s responsibility for stewardship.” He encourages companies, farmers, organizations and other interested parties to find out more about the Accord and how it impacts them. A website has been developed for that purpose – agaccord.org.
Listen to my interview with John here: Interview with John Schoenecker
ASTA-CSS Photo Album
It’s all about the seed next week in Chicago at the CSS 2012 & Seed Expo. That’s short for the 67th annual Corn & Sorghum Conference, 42nd annual Soybean Seed Research Conference and 36th Seed Expo which will be held December 4-7 at the Hyatt Regency.
American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) Chairman Blake Curtis of New Mexico says this is a great event for anyone in the industry to learn about everything from new traits and equipment to issues impacting the industry, such as “The Accord” – as the new agreement regarding the transition of biotechnology traits is called. “As we end up with expiring rights associated with the patents of these traits, the question is how do we move forward?” Curtis said in an interview at the NAFB Trade Talk earlier this month.
The technical name for the first part of “the accord” is the Generic Event Marketability and Access Agreement (GEMAA) and it was opened up for signature on October 31 through the efforts of ASTA and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
Under the GEMAA section of the Accord, signatories to the agreement that have developed proprietary regulatory information to support the authorizations for events globally would be required to provide notice of patent expiration three years before the last patent on the biotechnology event expires and provide access to the generic event at patent expiration. Additionally, the regulatory data owner must elect to either maintain regulatory responsibility on its own for the whole marketplace for at least four years after the last sale of the product, or share or transition this responsibility with other users. If no interest is expressed by other signatories, the owner could discontinue the event.
In addition to the GEMAA, the BIO-ASTA group continues to work on a Data Use and Compensation Agreement (DUCA) that complements the GEMAA and will have additional provisions related to structured access to regulatory data, and data compensation, to compliment the bilateral negotiated process in use today by companies to create novel combination products. The DUCA is targeted to be open for signature in the first quarter of 2013. “It’s a great opportunity to make available these traits and this information to everyone in the seed industry,” said Craig.
We will be attending the CSS and Seed Expo next week to learn more about this issue and to celebrate the signing of a new MOU between US and China seed associations.
Listen to Chuck’s interview with Blake from NAFB: Interview with ASTA Chairman Blake Curtis
2012 NAFB Convention Photo Album