Posts in category Event Archive

Socioeconomic Issues in Developing Countries


Socioeconomic Issues in Developing Countries


The committee held a webinar on Wednesday, May 13 at 10 am – 12 pm EDT to gather information from invited speakers:

Samuel Timpo, Associate Director, African Biosafety Network of Expertise, New Partnership for Africa’s Development. bio

Samuel Timpo is the associate director of the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE) and the socioeconomics specialist. ABNE is an initiative of the New Partnership for African Development. Previously, Mr. Timpo worked as a socioeconomist with the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission for almost 7 years. His areas of interest include biotechnology and biosafety, entrepreneurship, and transformational development. During his time with BNARI, Mr. Timpo served as the Ghana team leader for the USAID Program for Biosafety Systems and also as secretary to both the Country Advisory Group on Biosafety and the National Biosafety Committee. He was instrumental in the development of Ghana’s national biosafety frameworks and directly contributed to the development of a national biosafety communications strategy and biotechnology policy. Mr. Timpo earned a masters degree in agricultural economics from the University of Ghana, Legon. He also previously taught various courses including entrepreneurship, micro-enterprise development and management, agricultural economics, and agricultural finance and marketing at the University of Ghana, the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, and the School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences.

Matin Qaim, Professor of International Food Economics and Rural Development, University of Goettingen. bio

Matin Qaim is an agricultural economist and professor of international food economics and rural development at the University of Goettingen in Germany. Previously he was a professor at the University of Hohenheim (Stuttgart), a research team leader at the Center for Development Research (Bonn), and a research fellow at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Qaim holds a doctoral degree from the University of Bonn. He has extensive research experience related to the economics of agricultural biotechnology with a focus on analyzing impacts in developing countries. Dr. Qaim has published widely in international scientific journals, including in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Nature Biotechnology. He is member of several scientific and policy advisory committees, including for the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Life Science Commission of the German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina). He has also served on the boards of various international organizations and projects, including CIMMYT, Africa Harvest, and the Golden Rice Project.

Justus Wesseler, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy, Wageningen University. bio

Justus Wesseler holds the chair in Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. He has a Ph.D. in agricultural, environmental and natural resource economics from the University of Göttingen, Germany. His research work is on the economics of biotechnology, value chain economics, and regulatory economics including issues related to coexistence. The major focus is on the contribution of value chains to improve sustainability and the impact of new technologies and regulations on the value chain in this respect. He was professor of agricultural and food economics and head of the Research Department of Agricultural Economics at the Center of Life and Food Sciences Weihenstephan from 2011 to 2013 and is member of the International Consortium of Applied Bioeconomy Research (ICABR), co-editor of AgBioForum, and coordinator of the EU-funded project Practical Implementation of Coexistence in Europe (PRICE). His research work on the economics of the bioeconomy has been published in more than 100 contributions to peer reviewed journals and books.

The webinar is an information-gathering meeting for the committee in which the speakers are invited to provide input to the committee.

Presentations for each speaker start at the below timestamps:

  • Samuel Timpo: 00:05:38
  • Matin Qaim: 00:40:44
  • Justus Wesseler: 01:21:05

RNAi Technology


RNAi Technology

The committee held a Public Webinar on Thursday, May 7, 2015, to gather information about RNAi technology.

Click here to watch the full webinar.

What is RNAi?

RNA interference (RNAi) is a natural process that cells use to turn down, or silence, the activity of specific genes.

Inside every cell of every organism is DNA, the double helix that holds instructions for making the protein building blocks of life. RNA is a messenger that transports the instructions encoded in DNA to the protein factories of the cell.

When interfering RNA binds to a specific messenger RNA, no protein is produced because the interfering RNA can either block translation or target the messenger RNA for degradation. This process turns down or silences the expression of specific genes.

Why did the committee hear about RNAi?

Some researchers are investigating the possibility of using RNAi in agriculture for applications such as improving resistance to drought and pests or boosting the nutritional value of crops. Scientists can introduce interfering RNA via genetic-engineering techniques to trigger RNAi silencing within plants and regulate a specific gene of their choice. This has been used to develop slow-browning apples and potatoes and to reduce lignin in alfalfa.

The following slideshow provides a brief introduction to the topic.

Watch the RNAi Technology Webinar and hear what the speakers presented to the committee! 

Stephen Chan (00:06:00 mark), Harvard Medical School, provided an introduction to RNAi technology and discussed research investigating the biological effects of consuming small RNA molecules found in crops. View bio

Stephen Chan graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received his MD and PhD from the University of California, San Francisco. He then completed an internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and fellowship training in Cardiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital. His postdoctoral research was performed in the laboratory of Joseph Loscalzo, MD, PhD, and Dr. Chan joined the faculty at BWH and Harvard Medical School in July 2010 where he is an Assistant Professor of Medicine. Dr. Chan devotes a primary focus on basic research coupled with a clinical practice in general cardiology and pulmonary vascular medicine. Specifically, Dr. Chan’s scientific work has focused on the study of the fundamental biology of non-coding RNAs including microRNAs and their importance in cardiovascular and pulmonary vascular health and disease. In regard to plant biology, Dr. Chan has studied and published on the potential for transfer of non-coding RNAs from ingested dietary substances in mammals and insects. Dr. Chan has held research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, Gilead Sciences, and the Cardiovascular Medical Research and Education Fund. He has been the recipient of a number of philanthropic awards at BWH, including the Lerner Scholarship, the Watkins Discovery Award, the Harris Family Research Prize, and the McArthur-Radovsky Research Scholarship. Dr. Chan has been invited to present his research at both national and international venues, and he has received international research awards from the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, and the American Society of Microbiology.

David Heckel (00:58:00 mark), Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, discussed strategies for using plant-mediated RNAi in crop protection. View bio

David G. Heckel received his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 1980 and from 1980 to 1999 served as assistant, associate, and full professor in biological sciences at Clemson University. He moved to the Genetics Department at the University of Melbourne in Australia from 1999 to 2003. In 2004 he joined the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, as director and head of the Entomology Department. Research interests include the genetic analysis of resistance to chemical insecticides and Bacillus thuringiensis toxins, comparative digestive and detoxicative strategies of host-plant generalist vs. specialist herbivorous insects, reproductive isolating mechanisms in sympatric speciation, the genetics and evolution of sex pheromone communication systems in moths, the role of horizontal gene transfer in conferring novel metabolic functions in herbivorous insects, and the application of RNA interference in pest control.

Donor Organizations



Donor Organizations


The committee held a webinar on Thursday, April 30 at 11am – 1pm EDT to gather information from invited speakers:

Rob Horsch, Deputy Director, Global Development, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. bio

Rob Horsch, deputy director, leads the Agricultural Research and Development team of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which manages a portfolio of grants aimed at improving agricultural productivity, reducing farmer risk, and developing more nutritious versions of the staple crops grown and consumed by farm families, including varieties that thrive in different soil types and are resistant to disease, pests, and environmental stresses such as drought. Prior to joining the foundation in 2006, Rob was the leader of International Development Partnerships at Monsanto Company and involved in a number of public private partnerships for agricultural development. Rob is a plant biologist and has served on the editorial boards of several leading journals in the plant sciences and as an advisor to the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. He was awarded the 1998 National Medal of Technology by President Clinton for contributions to the development of agricultural biotechnology. Rob received his Ph.D. in genetics at the University of California, Riverside, in 1979, and then conducted postdoctoral work in plant physiology at the University of Saskatchewan.

John McMurdy, International Research Advisor & Scaling Team Leader, Bureau of Food Security, U.S. Agency for International Development. bio

John McMurdy is an international research and biotechnology advisor in the Bureau for Food Security at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) where he manages several of the agencies investments in plant biotechnology R&D across Africa and South Asia. These investments support technology transfer, product development of new crop varieties, and training for developing country scientists to more fully utilize biotechnology. John additionally manages USAID’s investments in biosafety capacity development, which provide technical assistance to policymakers in developing science-based regulatory systems and increase the technical literacy of the international biotechnology regulatory community. Before coming to USAID, John served as the Chief Technology Officer at Corum Medical, a medical device company he co-founded with physician and engineering colleagues in Providence, Rhode Island. He received his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Brown University and his B.S./M.S. from the University of Rochester.

Brian Dowd-Uribe, Assistant Professor, UN-Mandated University for Peace. bio

Brian Dowd-Uribe is the department chair and an assistant professor in the Department of Environment and Development at the UN-mandated University for Peace (UPEACE) in Costa Rica. He holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Environment Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Brian served as a postdoctoral research scientist in the Centre for Research on Environmental Decisions in Columbia University’s Earth Institute, where he continues to hold the title of adjunct research scientist. His doctoral research took place in Burkina Faso, where he examined the introduction of transgenic cotton among smallholder farmers. Prior to his doctoral studies, Brian served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa.

The webinar is an information-gathering meeting for the committee in which the speakers are invited to provide input to the committee.

Presentations for each speaker start at the below timestamps:

  • Rob Horsch: 00:07:07
  • John McMurdy: 00:43:20
  • Brian Dowd-Uribe: 01:11:09

GE Quality Traits

Quality Traits

Genetically Engineered Quality Traits


The committee held a webinar on Tuesday, April 21 at 2pm – 4pm EDT to gather information from invited speakers.

Click here to view the full webinar.

What are quality traits?

Quality traits are crop characteristics valued by consumers and retailers. Quality traits can be introduced to crops through conventional plant breeding, but they can also be incorporated through genetic-engineering techniques that more precisely select and insert the genes that code for desirable characteristics. Examples include apples that are more resilient to bruising and rice that has increased levels of vitamin A.

Why did the committee hear about quality traits?

To consider the future prospects for genetically engineered crops, the committee was interested in hearing about projects underway to enhance quality traits using genetic-engineering technologies.

The following slideshow provides a brief introduction to the topic.

Watch the Quality Traits Webinar and hear what the speakers presented to the committee!

Neal Carter, President, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, (00:06:55 mark), discussed the development of the Arctic® Apple, which is engineered to not brown when sliced, bitten, or bruised. View bio

Neal Carter is president and founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits (OSF), a grower-led biotechnology company specializing in the creation of novel tree fruit varieties. Outside of OSF, he and his wife Louisa grow and pack apples and cherries from their orchard in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. For over 30 years, Neal has worked with numerous crops as a bioresource engineer around the globe, ranging from maize to mango, from growing to harvesting, packing, storage, processing and packaging. It was through this firsthand experience that Neal was persuaded that biotechnology can help agriculture meet ever-expanding global food demand. Neal and Louisa founded OSF in 1996 in order to explore opportunities to utilize biotechnology to boost fruit consumption and growers’ sustainability. OSF’s flagship project is the development of nonbrowning Arctic® apples, which have been engineered to resist enzymatic browning by silencing the genes that produce polyphenol oxidase, the enzyme that drives the browning reaction. The first two Arctic® apple varieties, Arctic® Granny and Arctic® Golden, have recently received regulatory approval in both Canada and the United States, and it is expected they will be available in grocery stores within a few years. With apple consumption flat-to-declining for the past couple decades, Neal believes that Arctic® apples will provide a consumption trigger for the industry by making apples more convenient as well as providing numerous other benefits throughout the supply chain, including reducing food waste.

Mark McCaslin, Vice President-Research, Forage Genetics International, (00:35:13 mark), discussed genetically engineered traits in alfalfa that reduce lignin content and extend the harvest window. View bio

A California native, Mark McCaslin attended the University of California at Davis, where he received B.S. and M.S. degrees in agronomy. Mark earned a Ph.D. in plant breeding from Cornell University in 1981. Mark has worked in alfalfa breeding for over 30 years and has been responsible for developing over 250 alfalfa cultivars. He was a co-founder and currently serves as Vice President–Research of Forage Genetics International. Forage Genetics International (a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, Inc.) is a global leader in alfalfa and corn silage biotechnology, breeding, seed production, sales and marketing. Mark and his wife Jessica live in Minneapolis, MN.

Craig Richael, Director of Research and Development, Simplot Plant Sciences, (01:04:48 mark), discussed the development of the Innate™ potato, engineered to be less prone to bruising and to contain less asparagine, which reduces the potential for acrylamide to form when the potatoes are cooked at high temperatures. View bio

Craig Richael obtained a B.S. degree in plant sciences from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology from the University of California-Davis. In 2001, he joined the Simplot Plant Sciences team as a scientist working to develop genetic transformation systems for potato and other crops. His responsibilities evolved into supervising greenhouse and field testing of transgenic potato plants for trait efficacy and line selection. Since 2013, he has acted as Director of R&D, guiding the development of Innate™ GM potato products. Craig enjoys putting into practice the J. R. Simplot Company’s motto, “Bringing Earth’s Resources to Life”.

Intellectual Property Issues


Intellectual Property Issues of Genetically Engineered Crops


The committee held a webinar on Wednesday, May 6 at 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm EDT to gather information from invited speakers:

Alan Bennett, Executive Director, Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture, and Distinguished Professor, University of California-Davis. bio

Alan Bennett is Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Davis where he has been an active researcher, educator, policy advisor, and technology transfer advocate. He also serves as the founding Executive Director of the “Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture” (PIPRA), a not‐for‐profit organization that provides commercialization strategy advice and intellectual property rights analysis to support the commercialization of public sector innovations. Dr. Bennett earned B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant biology at UC Davis and Cornell University, respectively, has published over 160 scientific research papers in the area of plant molecular biology, and is recognized as an “ISI Most Cited Author”. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a Senior Fellow of the California Council for Science and Technology (CCST), a science policy advisory council for the State of California. From 2000 to 2004, Dr. Bennett served as the Executive Director of the University of California Systemwide Office of Research Administration and Technology Transfer where he was responsible for research policy and the management of a portfolio of over 5,000 patented inventions, 700 active licenses, and revenue in excess of $350MM. From 2004 to 2008, Dr. Bennett served as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at UC Davis where he founded and managed InnovationAccess, an organization responsible for technology transfer, business development, and support for technology-based economic development in the Sacramento/Davis region. He also serves on several corporate research advisory boards and is the founding CEO of the UC Davis-Chile Life Science Innovation Center.

Diana Horvath, President, Two Blades Foundation. bio

Diana Horvath helped to establish the Two Blades Foundation (2Blades), a charitable organization engaged in the development and delivery of durable disease resistance for agriculture, and currently serves as the Foundation’s President. Trained in biochemistry and molecular biology, her professional experience has focused on research on biotic constraints on agriculture in developing countries and the molecular mechanisms of plant disease resistance and on establishing companies with innovative agricultural biotechnologies. Since 2004, Dr. Horvath has worked with her 2Blades colleagues to build development programs for resistance to significant diseases of important commercial and subsistence crops. 2Blades’ efforts are aimed at practical outcomes for real-world disease problems, such as major diseases of wheat, citrus, and tomato. Strategic deployment of resistant crops includes the management of intellectual property in order to ensure responsible stewardship of genetic resources and the delivery of the broadest benefits to farmers.

Richard Jefferson, Founder and CEO, Cambia, and Professor of Science, Technology & Law, Queensland University of Technology. bio

Richard Jefferson is a prominent molecular biologist, social entrepreneur and open innovation systems strategist. He is founder and CEO of Cambia and a Professor of Science, Technology & Law at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Richard is a graduate of the University of California’s College of Creative Studies, with a Ph.D. in molecular biology from University of Colorado. As a National Institutes of Health postdoc in Cambridge, UK, he conducted the world’s first field release of a biotech crop and developed the most widely cited and licensed enabling biotechnology and distributed it under open source principles. After becoming the first molecular biologist for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, he founded Cambia in 1991, an independent, global nonprofit social enterprise to bring efficiency, effectiveness, and equity to science-enabled innovation, based in Canberra, Australia. At Cambia, Richard developed the landmark hologenome theory of evolution, continued inventing, distributing, and supporting enabling technologies and created the BiOS (Biological Open Source) Initiative, the first open patent-based commons for science. Fifteen years ago, Cambia launched the Patent Lens, the most popular open global full-text resource for patent transparency. This work has culminated in the current vision of a global digital public good — ‘The Lens’ — to disrupt and democratize the innovation system, through ‘Innovation Cartography’. Richard is an ‘Outstanding Social Entrepreneur’ of the Schwab Foundation and a regular panelist at the World Economic Forum’s Davos annual meetings and summits. He served four years on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Intellectual Property and is now on the Global Agenda Council on the Economics of Innovation. He is the recipient of the American Society of Plant Science’ ‘Leadership in Science’ award, was named to Scientific American’s list of the world’s 50 Most Influential Technologists, and is the inaugural Medalist of the Center for Science & Policy Outcomes. His work has featured in media in dozens of countries, and includes profiles in The Economist, New York Times, Newsweek, Red Herring, Nature, Science, Nature Biotechnology and many others.

The webinar is an information-gathering meeting for the committee in which the speakers are invited to provide input to the committee.

Presentations for each speaker start at the below timestamps:

  • Alan Bennett: 00:08:20
  • Diana Horvath: 00:42:04
  • Richard Jefferson: 01:18:17



Genetically Engineered Crops and the Microbiome


The committee held a webinar on Monday, April 6, 2015, to gather information on the microbiome.
Click here to view the full webinar.

What is the microbiome?

Microbiomes are communities of microbes—bacteria, viruses, and fungi—that live in, on, and around us.

Why did the committee hear about the microbiome?

From the moment we were born, microbes began living in and on our bodies. Beneficial microbes contribute to human health by defending against pathogens, helping digest food, and boosting our immune systems. Plants also have microbiomes; distinct microbial communities live on leaves, within flowers, and on roots and the soil around them. Farmers and scientists alike think microbes play many roles in crop growth and development. Some scientists are now interested in investigating those roles and determining if GE traits or treatment with herbicides could influence the plant, soil, or human microbiome.

The following slideshow provides a brief introduction to the topic.

Watch the Microbiome Webinar and hear what the speaker presented to the committee!

Jonathan Eisen, University of California, Davis, provided an introduction to the microbiome, discussed lateral gene transfer from microbes to other organisms, and examined whether there is evidence that the herbicide glyphosate affects the human microbiome. View bio

Jonathan Eisen is an evolutionary biologist and a professor at the University of California-Davis. His research focuses on mechanisms underlying the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). His work involves the use of high throughput DNA sequencing methods to characterize microbes and then the use and development of computational methods for analysis. The computational work has focused on integrating evolutionary analysis with genome analysis – so called “phylogenomics.” He previously applied the phylogenomic approach to cultured organisms, such as those from extreme environments and those with key properties as they relate to evolution or global climate cycles. He currently uses sequencing and phylogenomic methods to study microbes directly in their natural habitats (that is, without culturing). In particularly, he focuses on how communities of microbes interact with each other and with plant and animal hosts to create new functions. Prior to his position at UC-Davis, Dr. Eisen was on the faculty of The Institute for Genomic Research. He is a fellow of the American Society of Microbiology and the academic editor in chief for PLoS Biology. Dr. Eisen received his A.B. in biology from Harvard College and his Ph.D. in biological sciences from Stanford University, where he studied the evolution of DNA repair processes.

Socioeconomic Issues

Globe 2Socioeconomic Issues in Industrialized Countries Related to Genetically Engineered Crops

On Thursday, March 19, the committee held a webinar in which invited speakers addressed adoption trends of GE crops in the United States, GE research and development investments in the public and private sectors, and public policy aspects of genetic engineering in agriculture. The webinar featured invited speakers:

Keith Fuglie, Research Economist, USDA Economic Research Service. bio

Keith Fuglie works with the Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in Washington, DC, where he has served as branch chief and research economist specializing in the economics of technological change and science policy. In 2012 Dr. Fuglie was recognized with the USDA Secretary’s Honor Award for Professional Service, and in 2014 he received the Bruce Gardner Memorial Prize for Applied Policy Analysis from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. During 1997-1998 Dr. Fuglie served as senior staff economist on the White House Council of Economic Advisers. He also spent ten years with the International Potato Center (CIP) stationed in Southeast Asia and North Africa. Dr. Fuglie received an M.S. and Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota.

Lorraine Mitchell, Agricultural Economist, USDA Economic Research Service. bio

Lorraine Mitchell has been an agricultural economist at the USDA’s Economic Research Service since 1998. Her research has focused on the effect of consumer demand issues on international agricultural trade as well as general trade modeling. She received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998.

Seth Wechsler, Agricultural Economist, USDA Economic Research Service. bio

Seth Wechsler is a recent graduate from the University of Maryland’s Agricultural and Resource Economics department. His tenure as an agricultural economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service began in late 2014. Dr. Wechsler’s research interests include pest control, pest resistance management, biotechnology, and technology adoption. His current work focuses on quantifying the extent to which rootworms have adapted to the toxins produced by genetically modified, insect-resistant corn. Dr. Wechsler received an M.S. and a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Maryland. He earned a B.A. and an M.A. in economics from Duke University.

Peter Phillips, Distinguished Professor, University of Saskatchewan. bio

Peter Phillips is Distinguished Professor in the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS) at the University of Saskatchewan. He earned his MScEcon and Ph.D. at the London School of Economics (LSE) and practiced for 13 years as a professional economist and advisor in industry and government. At the University of Saskatchewan, he has held the Van Vliet Research Chair, created and held an NSERC-SSHRC Chair in Managing Technological Change, was a founding member and director of the virtual College of Biotechnology, and was founding director of the JSGS. He has had appointments at the LSE, the OECD, the European University Institute, Edinburgh, and the University of Western Australia. He was a founding member of the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee and has been on many company boards, including CAPI, Pharmalytics and Ag West Bio Inc. (which operates a biotech venture fund). He has held more than15 peer reviewed grants worth over $150 million and is the author or editor of 13 books, more than 40 journal articles and over 50 book chapters, including Innovation in Agri-food Clusters (CABI 2012).

The webinar is an information-gathering meeting for the committee in which the speakers are invited to provide input to the committee.

Presentations for each speaker start at the below timestamps:

  • Keith Fuglie: 00:06:24
  • Seth Wechsler: 00:32:40
  • Lorraine Mitchell: 00:50:58
  • Peter Phillips: 01:07:05

GE Trees


Genetically Engineered Trees


The committee held a webinar on Friday, March 27, 2015 at 11am – 1pm EDT to gather information from invited speakers.

Click here to view the full webinar.

What are genetically engineered trees?

Trees have been transformed using genetic engineering to introduce novel traits such as disease resistance and increased biomass. Genetic engineering is used instead of or in addition to conventional plant breeding because it can speed the breeding process, which is time-consuming in long-lived species like trees. Genetic engineering can be used to incorporate traits that may be difficult to introduce through conventional plant-breeding techniques or that may not exist in the genetic variation of the species of interest.

Why did the committee hear about genetically engineered trees?

Only a few tree species with GE traits are currently available. However, researchers are incorporating GE traits into many tree species, and these trees may be available in the near future. The committee wanted to hear about these developments.

The following slideshow provides a brief introduction to the topic.

Watch the Genetically Engineered Trees Webinar and hear what the speakers presented to the committee!

The speakers’ presentations addressed the state of the science regarding GE traits in development for tree species and governance issues related to the commercialization of GE trees.

Steve Strauss, Professor, Oregon State University (00:10:25 mark), discussed the economic and environmental benefits that genetic engineering could bring to tree species and the current state of the U.S. regulatory system with regards to trees. View bio.

Steve Strauss is a distinguished professor of forest biotechnology in the Department of Forest Science at Oregon State University (OSU). He also has joint appointments in the Genetics and the Molecular and Cellular Biology Programs. He is the director of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative at OSU, a university-public agency-industry consortium conducting research and education on the biosafety and physiology of genetically engineered trees used in plantation forestry and horticulture. Dr. Strauss directs the OSU Program for Outreach in Resource Biotechnology, aimed at promoting public understanding and facilitating science-based public debates in food and natural resources biotechnology. He was a 2005 Leopold Leadership Fellow, 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 ecology from Cornell University, a master of science degree in forest science from Yale University, and a doctorate degree in genetics from the University of California at Berkeley. He has published more than 160 scientific papers, given more than 170 invited lectures on biotechnology and genetics of trees, and obtained 16 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, stature, and transformation-based “functional genomics” using poplar trees as model organisms.

Les Pearson, Director of Regulatory Affairs, ArborGen (00:52:05 mark) discussed the use of genetic engineering in ArborGen’s development of tree varieties and the advantages that genetic engineering may offer to challenges such as invasive insects and diseases that threaten forests and commercially produced trees. View bio.

Les Pearson began with ArborGen in 2003 as Director of Regulatory Affairs responsible for the regulatory oversight of and commercial approvals for biotechnology tree seedlings. In January 2013 he took on additional responsibilities of managing the biotechnology science R&D program. Prior to joining ArborGen, Dr. Pearson served in a number of positions at Westvaco Corporation from 1989 to 2003, including most recently as the leader of Westvaco’s Forest Biotechnology Group, where he was responsible for managing research teams in growth genes, flowering control, and stress resistance as well as the regulatory oversight of Westvaco’s biotechnology tree research and development. He started his career at the University of Georgia, where he worked as a post-doctoral associate in plant gene expression research. Dr. Pearson received his Ph.D. in plant molecular biology from the John Innes Institute at the University of East Anglia where he did breakthrough research on the control of gene expression in transgenic plant cells. He also has a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of East Anglia in England where he graduated magna cum laude.

Bill Powell, Professor, State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry (01:20:40 mark) discussed his research to genetically engineer an American chestnut resistant to a fungal blight that killed the extensive chestnut forest in the eastern United States after it was introduced from Asia in the late 1800s. View bio.

William 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 two 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 the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) at Syracuse, New York, where he began collaborating with his colleague, Dr. Charles Maynard, researching methods to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut (Castanea dentata) tree. He has also worked with American elm and hybrid poplar. In addition to being a professor at SUNY-ESF, Dr. Powell is the director of SUNY-ESF’s Council on Biotechnology in Forestry and the co-director of The American Chestnut Research and Restoration Program. Dr. Powell currently has over 50 peer-reviewed publications and one patent. He teaches courses in Principles of Genetics, Plant Biotechnology, and Biotechnology Freshman orientation. His most significant accomplishment is the enhancement of blight resistance in American chestnut by his research team and collaborators.

Safety of GE Foods, an NRC Report

Revisiting the 2004 NRC Report, Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects.

The committee held a webinar on Thursday, February 26, 2015 to gather information from two members of the 2004 report committee:

Lynn Goldman, Professor, George Washington University bio

Lynn R. Goldman, a pediatrician and an epidemiologist, is the Michael and Lori Milken Dean of George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Formerly she was a Professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health Department of Environmental Health Sciences. In 1993, Dr. Goldman was appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate to serve as Assistant Administrator (AA) for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where she directed the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) from 1993 through 1998. As AA for OCSPP she was responsible for the nation’s pesticide, toxic substances, and pollution prevention laws. Under her watch, EPA overhauled the nation’s pesticides laws to assure that children would be protected by pesticide regulations. Prior to joining the EPA, from 1985 until 1993, Dr. Goldman served in several positions at the California Department of Public Health, most recently as chief of the Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control. Dr. Goldman was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine in 2007. She has received several awards including the Woodrow Wilson Award for Distinguished Government Service from the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association (1999), Alumna of the Year from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health (2002), National Library of Medicine, Changing the Face of Women in Medicine (2003), election to the Delta Omega Honor Society (2007), and the Heinz Award for Global Change, (2010). She serves as a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Science Board and the Advisory Council to the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Environmental Defense Fund. Dr. Goldman has a B.S. in conservation of natural resources, an M.S. in health and medical sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and an M.D. from the University of California, San Francisco. She completed pediatric training at Children’s Hospital, Oakland, California and is board-certified in pediatrics.

Bettie Sue Masters, Distinguished Professor, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio bio

Bettie Sue Masters holds the Robert A. Welch Foundation Distinguished Chair in Chemistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas. A native Virginian, she received her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Roanoke College. She was awarded her Ph.D. in biochemistry, with a minor in chemistry, from Duke University in 1963, and continued her training there as a postdoctoral fellow supported sequentially by the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. In 1968, Dr. Masters received an Established Investigatorship from the American Heart Association under which she began her academic career at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. There, she became a Full Professor in 1976 and left in 1982 to become Chair of Biochemistry at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She was recruited to the U.T. Health Science Center in 1990. Currently, her research centers on the structure-function relationships of flavoproteins and heme proteins involved in major monooxygenation pathways as well as the regulation of their respective activities. Dr. Masters has received the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Excellence in Science Award (1992) and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Bernard B. Brodie Award in 2000 and she served on the Advisory Committee to the Director of the National Institutes of Health through 2004, followed by service on the National Advisory Research Resources Council from 2004 to 2009. She was President of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from 2002 to 2004. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1996 and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001.

The webinar is an information-gathering meeting for the committee in which the speakers are invited to provide input to the committee.

Third Public Meeting: March 5 – Food Safety


Food Safety


The meeting was held on Thursday, March 5, from 12:30 pm-6:15 pm Eastern at the National Academy of Sciences Keck Center.

The committee heard about the current state of knowledge on the safety of foods made with genetically engineered ingredients. Speakers represented the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the European Food Safety Authority. Experts also presented on the evaluation of risks of allergy and potential effects on the gastrointestinal tract of GE foods.

This was an information-gathering meeting for the committee in which the speakers are invited to provide input to the committee.

View agenda here

Meeting Recap: This Storify collects the tweets and online discussion that took place at the meeting.

Click the links below to view videos of the presentations and discussions.

Welcome and Intro to the Study Process of the National Research Council

Fred Gould, Committee Chair, University Distinguished Professor of Entomology and Codirector of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center, North Carolina State University and Kara Laney, Study Director, National Research Council

Panel on Food Safety: Regulatory Perspectives

Jason Dietz, Policy Analyst, Office of Food Additive Safety, Food and Drug Administration–Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. bio

Jason Dietz coordinates cross-cutting biotechnology-related activities in the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. In this role he regularly provides technical and policy input regarding plant biotechnology issues. Mr. Dietz has also served FDA as a consumer safety officer working on projects related to the safety of foods derived from genetically engineered organisms.

William L. Jordan, Deputy Director for Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency– Office of Pesticide Programs. bio

William L. Jordan currently serves as the Deputy Director for Programs in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). He works on a wide variety of cross-cutting science and policy issues in areas such as food safety, protections for subjects in human research, pesticide labeling, endangered species protection, and nanotechnology. Mr. Jordan has worked in OPP since 1988, where he played a major role in the development of the legislation which became the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. He was responsible for coordinating the development of documents describing major science policies EPA applies in implementing this law. In addition, he has been involved in many diverse policy and regulatory actions affecting pesticides, from the implementation of the worker protection standard to trade policy to data requirement regulations. He has served throughout OPP as Director of the Policy and Special Projects Staff, acting Director of the Field Operations Division, Associate Director of the Antimicrobials Division, and Senior Policy Adviser. Prior to OPP, Mr. Jordan worked in EPA’s Office of General Counsel on pesticide and water program activities. He was also a staff member of the President’s Council for a National Agenda for the Eighties. He has a law degree from Georgetown University and an undergraduate degree from Princeton University.

John Kough, Senior Scientist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency–Office of Pesticide Programs. bio

John Kough joined EPA in 1989 and has worked since then for the biotechnology programs in the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. In his work with OPP, Dr. Kough has reviewed the scientific data submitted for all the plant pesticides and many microbial pesticides currently registered, presented EPA’s position at numerous Scientific Advisory Panels, and helped write sections of EPA’s plant-incorporated protectants rule. Dr. Kough received EPA’s Seifter Award for his role in the human health risk assessment of the products of biotechnology. Prior to joining EPA, Dr. Kough was a research project director at IGEN, a biotechnology company specializing in developing monoclonal antibodies for several plant diseases. He received a B.A. degree in biology from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Oregon State University. Dr. Kough did an NSF post-doctoral fellowship in Dijon, France, where he researched Fusarium suppressive soils and the physiology of endomycorrhizal fungi. Dr. Kough was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and raised in the Allegheny Mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Anna Lanzoni, Senior Scientific Officer, European Food Safety Authority–GMO Unit 2:25. bio

Anna Lanzoni is a Senior Scientific Officer in the GMO Unit of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). She is involved in the risk assessment of genetically modified food and feed in the context of European Regulatory framework. In particular she supports the evaluation of toxicological and animal feeding studies provided in dossiers submitted. She is a toxicologic pathologist by training, and before joining EFSA in 2013, she worked at GlaxoSmithKline from 1992 to 2010 supporting the research and development on potential new medicines. Specifically she worked as a toxicologic pathologist in the Safety Assessment/Toxicological Department supporting the preclinical development of new molecules and acting as a safety assessment representative in team projects. In this context, she also participated in the setup and validation of animal models of disease (such as atherosclerosis, stroke, infection rodent models), with particular focus on translation of results to human beings. From 2010 to 2013 she worked for a contract research organisation as Head of Toxicological Pathology. She served as vice president of the Italian Society of Toxicologic Pathology from 2007 to 2010. Dr. Lanzoni holds a DVM from Parma University, Italy, and a Ph.D. in veterinary hygiene from the Milan University, Italy.

Committee Discussion with Presenters

Panel on Food Safety: Potential Health Outcomes

Evaluating GE food sources for risks of allergy: Methods, gaps, and perspectives

Richard Goodman, Research Professor, Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. bio

Richard Goodman joined the Department of Food Science and Technology in the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) in August 2004 as a research professor. His laboratory performs research to identify allergenic proteins and evaluate the relative allergenicity of genetically modified (GM) crops and processed food fractions and on methods improvements for the safety assessment of GM crops. His research focuses on IgE cross-reactivity, measuring endogenous allergens in commodity crops, developing and assessing the safety of GM crops and evaluation of an animal model for allergic sensitization. Dr. Goodman directs the database project at UNL (since 2004). From 1997 to 2004, he was an allergy program manager for the safety assessment of genetically modified crops at Monsanto Company. Prior to that, he was a research scientist in pulmonary immunology (T cells and antigen presenting cells in pulmonary fibrosis, defense against microbes, and rejection of transplanted organs) at the University of Michigan from 1993 to 1997. He participated in the Codex Task Force Working group that developed the 2003 guidelines and is senior author of a number of peer reviewed articles on the overall process of the GM allergenicity assessment. Dr. Goodman serves as an Associate Editor for Food and Chemical Toxicology, focusing on manuscripts relating to biotechnology. He is a Fellow in the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology and a member of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology as well as the American Chemical Society and the Institute of Food Technologists. He obtained a Ph.D. in dairy science from The Ohio State University in 1990, focusing on molecular biology, and postdoctoral training in immunology and parasitology at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Potential perturbances of gastrointestinal tract mucosa of GE foods

Alessio Fasano, Vice Chair of Basic, Clinical and Translational Research and Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, MassGeneral Hospital for Children. bio

Alessio Fasano, M.D., is a world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist, research scientist, and entreprenuer. He is director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC). His visionary research has led to the awareness of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders as a growing public health problem in the United States and worldwide. His prevalence study published in 2003 established the rate of celiac disease at 1 in 133 Americans. As visiting professor at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at MGHfC, Dr. Fasano treats both children and adults for gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy. A passionate advocate for collaboration in research and clinical work, Dr. Fasano recently authored Gluten Freedom to provide patients, healthcare providers, and general readers an evidence-based yet entertaining book to dispel some of the current confusion about gluten and how it can affect your health.

Metabolomic analysis to confirm effects of transgenesis in plants

Timothy Tschaplinski, Distinguished Research Scientist and Group Leader, Metabolomics and Bioconversion, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. bio

Timothy Tschaplinski is the Metabolomics and Bioconversion Group Leader in the Biosciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, TN. Dr. Tschaplinski graduated with his Ph.D. in forestry from the University of Toronto in 1987 and, after completing his postdoctoral studies at ORNL, he was hired as a Research Staff Member in 1990. He is a plant molecular physiologist experienced in biochemistry, specifically the application of mass spectrometry to research problems in genomics, bioenergy crop production, environmental stress physiology, and plant-microbe signaling. Current research includes metabolomics for phenotypic characterization of genetically-modified Populus, Arabidopsis, Eucalyptus, Castanea sp. (American and Chinese chestnut), switchgrass, and numerous bioenergy-relevant microbial species, and coupling metabolomics with genome-wide association studies to identify gene function. Research targets include the application of genomic tools for the accelerated domestication of Populus to reduce biomass recalcitrance to microbial deconstruction, increase drought tolerance and biomass productivity on marginal sites, and increase sustainability of biomass crops with symbiotic microbes. He has authored and co-authored over 100 publications and currently serves as the ‘Omics Activity Lead Scientist in the Bioenergy Science Center, a U.S. Department of Energy funded Bioenergy Research Center.

Committee Discussion with Presenters

Public Comment Session