The first meeting open session was held on Friday, December 1, 2017 from 10:30 am – 6:00 pm Eastern Time at the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, DC. At the meeting, the committee heard from the study sponsors and invited speakers.

Click on the speaker’s name to watch the video recordings.

December 1, 2017

National Academy of Sciences Building
2101 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20418 | Room 120

10:30 am Welcome 
Susan Offutt, Committee Chair
10:35 am The National Academies Study Process
Kara Laney, Study Director
10:40 am Committee Introductions
10:45 am Sponsor Presentations
10:45 am U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities
Michael Goergen, Vice President, Innovation and Director, P3Nano – View bio

Mr. Michael Goergen joined the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) in September of 2013 to lead efforts focused on innovation in the forest sector. He is focused on taking cellulosic nanotechnology from the lab to commercialization, advancing mass timber construction, and is bringing together partners in the public and private sectors to accelerate the development of innovative uses of renewable materials from forests. Prior to joining the Endowment, Mr. Goergen was Executive Vice President and CEO of the Society of American Foresters. He focused on bringing innovation to a 100-year-old professional society, while staying focused on the core organizational values: Thriving forests, essential resources, and strong communities. Mr. Goergen has extensive experience in government affairs, scientific publishing, and communications – most recently delivering a TEDx talk.

11:10 am U.S. Department of Agriculture–Forest Service
Carlos Rodriguez-Franco, Deputy Chief, Research and Development View Bio

Dr. Carlos Rodriguez-Franco is Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. He is responsible for providing national leadership to comprehensive scientific programs, many of which have worldwide impact on providing fundamental and applied knowledge to important environmental, conservation, and utilization problems. His specific responsibilities cover an exceptionally broad and complex array of research spanning multidisciplinary components that must be successfully integrated to solve vegetation management and protection knowledge and technology gaps. Before joining the Forest Service, Dr. Rodriquez-Franco worked in the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service where he was based in the Office of International Research Programs. Dr. Rodriquez-Franco received his Ph.D. in forestry from Yale University and has more than 30 years’ experience in research, academic, and administration forestry positions.

11:35 am U.S. Department of Agriculture–Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Susan Koehler, Intergovernmental Agricultural Biotechnology Liaison – View BioView Slides

Dr. Susan Koehler currently serves as the Intergovernmental Agricultural Biotechnology Liaison in the Intergovernmental Operations Group of Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) within the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). She has been with the APHIS biotechnology regulatory program since 1994, first serving as a Biotechnologist, and most recently as Branch Chief of the Plants Branch within the Biotechnology Risk Analysis Program. As Branch Chief she supervised the review and preparation of risk analyses and environmental assessments for permit or notification applications to move or release genetically engineered (GE) plants and for petitions for deregulation. Additional contributions in this position include: the development of Notification and Permit User’s Guides; policies and processes related to evaluation of impacts to federally listed threatened and endangered species, review and approval of field trials of pharma- and industrial-producing plants, large scale field trials, and trees and other perennials under permit; plant pest risk assessments for petitions; and international standards and agreements on the review of genetically engineered crops. Currently, she develops and implements strategies to leverage BRS’ relationships with other domestic government agencies, scientific societies, academic institutions, and other public and private entities to assess and address the impacts, overlap, or conflict of BRS operations or policies on these entities and on government programs, initiatives or priorities. She facilitates the development, coordination or harmonization of appropriate responses, regulatory or non-regulatory solutions, policy or guidance in coordination with BRS, APHIS, and USDA program units to ensure that their needs, expectations and concerns are addressed on issues related to biotechnology, agriculture, plant health, and the environment using the best available science. Prior to APHIS, Dr. Koehler conducted post-doctoral research at the USDA–Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville and conducted research as a Biological Scientist at Monsanto. She received her B.S. in agronomy from the University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, and her Ph.D. in plant biology from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. Her expertise includes plant biochemistry, physiology, and molecular biology; plant tissue culture; and risk assessment of transgenic organisms, conventional fruit and vegetable commodities, and herbicide resistance.

12:00 pm Environmental Protection Agency
John L. Kough, Senior Scientist, Office of Pesticide Programs, Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division – View Bio | View Slides

Dr. John L. Kough is a senior scientist in the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Dr. Kough has been at EPA since 1990 and has worked in the biotechnology programs of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. In his work with the Office of Pesticide Programs, he has reviewed the scientific data submitted for plant-incorporated protectants (genetically engineered plants) and many of the microbial and biochemical pesticides currently registered. Dr. Kough has presented EPA’s position at numerous Scientific Advisory Panels on topics like product characterization, protein toxicity assessment, RNA interference and food allergenicity. He attended Reed College and received a B.A. in biology in 1975. He has a Ph.D. in plant pathology from Oregon State University, had a post-doctoral fellowship with the French Agricultural Research Institute (INRA) in Dijon, and worked for IGEN, a biotechnology company designing immunoassays for plant pathogens, before joining EPA.

12:25 pm Lunch

1:30 pm U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service
Kevin Hackett, Senior National Program Leader, Crop Entomology – View BioView Slides

Since 1998, Dr. Kevin Hackett has been a senior national program leader with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), with program responsibility for crop pests and beneficial insects, including pollinators. He is also co-chair of the Federal Interagency Committee for Invasive Terrestrial Animals and Pathogens, co-chair of i5K (the international initiative to sequence 5000 arthropods), and part of the team that founded the Earth BioGenome Project. Prior to joining ARS’ National Program Staff, he was the eastern coordinator for the John Muir Institute for Environmental Studies, followed by 16 years as an insect pathologist for ARS in Beltsville, Maryland, where his research focused on spiroplasmas, which are small bacteria without cell walls. Dr. Hackett holds a Ph.D. in insect pathology from the University of California, Berkeley.

1:55 pm U.S. Department of Agriculture–National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Timothy Conner, Director, Division of Bioenergy – View BioView Slides

Dr. Timothy Conner is the director for the Division of Bioenergy, Bioproducts and Bioeconomy in the Institute of Bioenergy, Climate and Environment within USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Central Arkansas, a Master of Science degree from the University of Kentucky, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in genetics from the University of Minnesota. In 1987, he became a NIH postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Georgia. In 1990, Dr. Conner joined the Monsanto Company and was a visiting scientist at the Rockefeller University’s Lab of Plant Molecular Biology and a senior research biologist. Many of Dr. Conner’s earlier contributions were as a functional leader in two programs: a) Genomics and b) Biotechnology, where he focused on the innovation of enabling technologies useful for the implementation of new strategies and product opportunities for crops including food, feed, and biologicals. Other roles that Dr. Conner held were in the Monsanto Technology organization as the Vice President of Global Oilseeds and Food Technology, and South America Technology Strategy Lead in the International Commercial organization. He was the biotechnology lead in Monsanto Vegetable’s R&D organization in Woodland and the General Manager and Site Director for Monsanto’s Chemistry Technology organization in Woodland and Davis, which focused on new Ag technology platforms. Dr. Conner joined USDA in 2017 and is excited to serve his community in his new role within NIFA.

2:20 pm General Committee Discussion with Sponsors
2:45 pm Break
3:00 pm Public Attitudes and Philosophical Perspectives on the Use of Biotechnology to Address Forest Health
Evelyn Brister, Associate Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology – View BioView Slides

Dr. Evelyn Brister is an associate professor in the Philosophy Department at Rochester Institute of Technology. She has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Northwestern University (2002) and an M.S. in environmental science from Rochester Institute of Technology (2012). Her research focuses on identifying priorities in forest management and, more generally, on supporting reasoning about values in scientific contexts, including climate policy and science education. She has published articles on values that shape different responses to the genetically engineered American chestnut and on the challenges to incorporating humanities and social scientific perspectives into scientific research.

3:30 pm Why Biotech Solutions are Needed to Address Forest Health
Steve Strauss, Professor, Oregon State University – View Bio | View Slides

Dr. Steve Strauss is a Distinguished Professor of Forest Biotechnology in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University (OSU). He also has a joint appointment in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program. He is the director of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative at OSU, a university-public agency-industry consortium that has conducted research on the biosafety and physiology of genetically engineered trees for 23 years. In 2005 he became a Leopold Leadership Fellow as part of a program aimed at training environmental scientists to be more effective at influencing public policy and presenting science to news media. Dr. Strauss has earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from Cornell University, a master of science degree in forest science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and a doctorate degree in forestry genetics from the University of California at Berkeley. He has published more than 230 scientific papers, given more than 260 invited lectures on biotechnology and genetics of trees, and obtained more than 24 million dollars of competitive grant support. He has also advised governments and written in scientific journals about national and international regulations on field research and commercial development of genetically engineered crops and trees. Dr. Strauss’ current research focuses on genetic engineering of flowering for genetic containment and identification of genes that control the capacity for gene insertion and plant regeneration. His lab emphasizes poplar and eucalypt trees in its research.

4:00 pm Threats to and Efforts to Protect Acacia Koa in Hawaii
Dulal Borthakur, Professor, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa – View Bio | View Slides

Dr. Dulal Borthakur is a Professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu. He received his master degree in plant breeding from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, India and PhD in molecular Biology from University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. He teaches courses in molecular cell biology and biotechnology to undergraduate and graduate students, and conducts research on biochemical and molecular biological aspects of two tree legumes, Acacia koa (koa) and Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena). Koa is a major timber wood tree on the Hawaiian Islands and leucaena is used as a perennial high-protein fodder for farm animals. Dr. Borthakur’s earlier research was primarily on genes for biosynthesis of exopolysaccharides in the root nodule bacterium Rhizobium and determining their role in symbiosis with legumes. His current research on leucaena focuses on degradation and biosynthesis of mimosine, a toxic non-protein amino acid produced by this tree. His research on koa focuses on developing molecular methods for selecting seedlings for resistance to wilt disease caused by Fusarium oxysporum. He is the author or a coauthor of 78 refereed publications.

4:30 pm How a Single Gene May Help Save the American Chestnut
William A. Powell, Professor, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry – View Bio | View Slides

Dr. William A. Powell is a professor with the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science & Forestry (SUNY–ESF). He is also the director of SUNY–ESF’s Council on Biotechnology in Forestry and The American Chestnut Research & Restoration Program. Dr. Powell received his B.S. in biology in 1982 at Salisbury University, Maryland, and his Ph.D. in 1986 at Utah State University studying the molecular mechanisms of hypovirulence in the chestnut blight fungus Cryphonectria parasitica. He spent over 2 years as a postdoctoral associate at University of Florida researching transformation techniques using the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum. In 1989 he became a faculty member at SUNY–ESF in Syracuse, New York, where he began collaborating with his colleague, Dr. Charles Maynard, researching methods to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut (Castanea dentata). He has also worked with American elm and hybrid poplar. Dr. Powell currently has over 50 peer reviewed publications and one patent. He teaches courses in principles of genetics, plant biotechnology, how to present research to the public, and biotechnology freshman orientation.

5:00 pm General Committee Discussion with Speakers
5:30 pm Adjourn Open Session