Agricultural biotechnology hot topic at ASTA corn & sorghum and soybean seed research conferences

November 07, 2000

What are the effects of genetic advances in corn, sorghum, and soybeans on the seed and food industries? What are forthcoming crop applications of modern biotechnology? What is the European perspective on biotech crops? How reliable are tests used to detect biotech material in seed? These and other key questions about biotech crops will be addressed at the American Seed Trade Association's (ASTA's) Corn & Sorghum and Soybean Seed Research Conferences on Wed.-Fri., Dec. 6-8, 2000 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

The Soybean Seed Research Conference on Dec. 6 (1-2:15 PM) will feature presentations on the public soybean genome project by Randy Shoemaker, Ph.D., associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, and enhanced soybean oil composition in terms of nutrition and shelf life by Robert Reeves, president of the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils.

Dec. 7 (8-10:40 AM) will feature a joint soybean and corn & sorghum session on the science and U.S. regulation of biotech crops by Stanley Abramson, chair of the environmental group at Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, PLLC, and the European perspective on biotechnology by Pierre Deloffre of Bonduelle, a French vegetable product manufacturer. Abramson will give an overview of the U.S. regulatory framework for biotech foods, summarize the National Academy of Sciences' report on genetically modified pest-protected plants, and discuss current events related to Bacillus thurigiensis (Bt) crops.

Modern biotechnology will be center stage at the Corn & Sorghum Seed Research Conference on Dec. 8 (8-10:40 AM). Topics will include bioinformatics¾the composition and analysis of data about plant genetic structures, evaluation of tests that detect biotech material in non-biotech seed or food, consumer and policy issues, and the use of biotechnology to improve corn genetics, the purity of corn hybrids, and corn starch content. The latter applications will be discussed by Major Goodman, Ph.D., corn geneticist at North Carolina State University, Marc Albertsen, Ph.D., director of research at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., and Peter Keeling, Ph.D., director of research at ExSeed, Inc., respectively.

Pat Schnable, Ph.D., professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, will discuss bioinformatics, which enables scientists to predict the expression and function of genes in crops. For example, by understanding the way in which the Bt protein is expressed and regulated in Bt corn, researchers may be able to instruct the corn when to turn Bt expression on and off with the use of a "switch," such as an ecologically benign chemical treatment. Schnable will also discuss a new genetic mapping technology that greatly reduces the time and cost involved with locating genes responsible for specific traits in plants.

Alan Hawkins, Ph.D., director of research for Garst Seed Co., will discuss three methods used for detecting the presence of biotech material in traditional seed or food. Methods include testing for traits that affect the plant, such as herbicide tolerance; testing for novel proteins produced by the plant, such as Bt; and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods to detect the DNA sequence of novel gene(s).

Karil Kochenderfer, director of International Trade and Environmental Affairs, Grocery Manufacturers Association, will discuss new survey results on consumer acceptance of biotechnology, U.S. legislative activities on biotechnology next year, the effect of international policies on biotech food labeling on the domestic marketplace, and the impact on the food industry of the accidental presence of Starlink corn, unapproved for food use, in taco shells.
For press registration and/or arrangement of interviews with speakers or seed industry representatives, contact Angela Dansby at ASTA at 202-638-3128 X31 or by e-mail at by Dec. 1.
For general conference information, go to

Founded in 1883, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), located in Washington, DC, is one of the oldest trade organizations in the United States. Its membership consists of about 900 companies involved in seed production and distribution, plant breeding, and related industries in North America. As an authority on plant germplasm, ASTA advocates science and policy issues of industry importance. Its mission is to enhance the development and free movement of quality seed worldwide.

American Seed Trade Association

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