Haven Baker

Haven Baker

Haven Baker is the General Manager and Vice President of Plant Sciences at the J.R. Simplot Company, one of the largest privately held food and agribusiness companies in the country, with annual sales of $5.8 billion.  In his capacity, Baker is responsible for identifying and commercializing new agricultural technologies.  Under his leadership, Simplot launched the retail industry’s first never-fried french fry and introduced Innate™ potato biotechnology with consumer and crop benefits.

Baker has significant experience with biotech start-up ventures in the funding, incubation, IP development and commercialization phases.  He served as a senior scientist at the Barnett Institute at Northeastern University and later worked as an investment professional at Clarium Capital before joining Simplot in 2009.

Baker received a B.S. from Yale University, a PhD in chemistry from Northeastern University, and an MBA with distrinction from Harvard Business School.  Baker grew up on a farm in Moses Lake, Washington and still farms a small plot with his family in Boise, Idaho.

David D. Baltensperger

David D. BaltenspergerDr. David Baltensperger began his role as Professor and Department Head of Soil and Crop Sciences in October 2005 and is serving as Interim Department Head for Ecosystem Science and Management.

Baltensperger provides leadership and administration for a large comprehensive program of research, teaching and extension in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. The department is widely recognized for its quality, size, and diversity of subject matter areas. Nationally and internationally recognized research programs are conducted by Soil and Crop Sciences Faculty in such disciplines as plant breeding and genetics, biotechnology, crop physiology, agronomy, forage and turfgrass management, cereal chemistry, soil science, weed science, and environmental soil, water and crop science.

Baltensperger earned his bachelor’s in 1976 in Biology from Nebraska Wesleyan University and master’s in 1978 in Agronomy from University of Nebraska. He received his doctorate from New Mexico State University in 1980.

Baltensperger comes to Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension from the University of Nebraska where he worked for 17 years as a plant breeder developing and co-developing crops that are grown on more than 2 million acres. Prior to Nebraska he worked as a legume breeder at the University of Florida for 9 years. Baltensperger received the Texas A&M College of Agriculture Outstanding Administrator in 2012 and New Mexico State Plant and Environmental Science Department Outstanding Alumni and is also a Fellow in Crop Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Roger Beachy, Ph.D.Roger Beachy

Dr. Roger Beachy is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer for the Global Institute for Food Security, housed at the University of Saskatchewan.

Dr. Beachy was appointed the first director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in October, 2009, served as Chief Scientist of USDA from January – October, 2010. NIFA is responsible for awarding extramural funds for Research, Extension and Education for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Prior to this appointment, he served as the founding president of the not-for-profit Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. In this role, Dr. Beachy was responsible for developing and implementing the Danforth Center’s strategic direction, recruiting its staff, and formulating its research programs. Dr. Beachy, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is internationally known for his groundbreaking research on developing virus-resistant plants through biotechnology.

From 1991 to 1998, Dr. Beachy headed the Division of Plant Biology at The Scripps Research Institute, a leading biomedical research center in La Jolla, California. He was also Professor and Scripps Family Chair in Cell Biology and co-director of the International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology (ILTAB) at Scripps. Dr. Beachy was a member of the Biology Department at Washington University in St. Louis from 1978 to 1991, where he was Professor and Director of the Center for Plant Science and Biotechnology. His work at Washington University, in collaboration with Monsanto Company, led to the development of the world’s first genetically modified food crop, a variety of tomato that was modified for resistance to virus disease. His technique to produce virus resistance in tomatoes has been replicated by researchers around the world and his groundbreaking work has led to the production of many types of virus-resistant plants.   Research under Dr. Beachy’s direction has led to a number of issued patents and pending applications. He has edited or contributed to 50 book articles, and his work has produced more than 230 journal publications in topics related to virology and virus pathology, and regulation of gene expression in plants. Dr. Beachy has received a number of honors for his research. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and in 2001 received the Wolf Prize in Agriculture. He is a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, the National Academy of Science India, the Indian National Science Academy, and the Academy of Science of St. Louis. He was elected Foreign Associate of the Third World Academy of Sciences. He was the 1991 recipient of the Bank of Delaware’s Commonwealth Award for Science and Industry and the 1990 recipient of the American Phytopathological Society’s Ruth Allen Award. Dr Beachy was awarded the Dennis Robert Hoagland Award from the American Society of Plant Biologists, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Michigan State University, and the William D. Phillips Technology Advancement Award from the St. Louis County Economic Council. Dr. Beachy was named R&D Magazine’s Scientist of the Year for 1999. In 2003, he was elected Councilor for the National Academy of Sciences, and has served as a member of the editorial board of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Beachy has served on numerous boards and committees, including the board of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India, and the board of the NIDUS Center for Scientific Enterprise, and other voluntary boards in the St. Louis region. He is a member of a number of scientific societies, including the American Society of Plant Biologists, American Phytopathological Society, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and American Society for Virology. He currently serves as President of the International Association for Plant Biotechnology. He has served as consultant in plant biotechnology for several companies and frequently lectures on the applications of biotechnology in agriculture, nutrition, and human health.  Dr. Beachy holds a Ph.D. in plant pathology from Michigan State University and earned a B.A. in biology from Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.

Alan B. BennettAlan B. Bennett

Alan Bennett is professor of Plant Sciences at UC Davis where he has been an active researcher, educator, policy advisor and technology transfer advocate. He earned B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Plant Biology at UC Davis and Cornell University, respectively. Bennett has published over 160 scientific research papers and is recognized as an “ISI Most Cited Author” (h=50). His research has focused on molecular biology of tomato fruit development and ripening; cell wall disassembly; intellectual property rights in agriculture. Bennett 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. Bennett has also served in a range of University of California leadership positions, including Department Chair, Divisional Associate Dean in the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, University of California Systemwide Executive Director of Research Administration and Technology Transfer and Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at UC Davis. In these capacities, he has been responsible for research and teaching budgets, for establishing and overseeing research policy and for the management of a portfolio of over 5000 patented inventions, 700 active licenses and revenue in excess of $350MM. In 2004, Bennett founded the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA) whose mission is to accelerate the deployment of public sector technologies for specialty crops and subsistence crops in developing countries. PIPRA has been supported by the Rockefeller and Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundations as well as by numerous government agencies and private companies.

JJ. Allan Carnes. Allan Carnes

J Carnes is the managing partner of Winter Garden Produce, LLC and vice president of the family farming operation, Carnes Farms.  The family operations grow and ship fifteen hundred acres of vegetables annually and have been around for over 60 years.  J is a past president of the Texas Vegetable Association and he has been very involved on both the State and Federal level in agricultural issues. He is active in the Food Safety legislation, labor and immigration debate, and multiple water issues.   He serves on a Rural Advisory committee under Texas Department of Agriculture and United Fresh Produce government relation board.  J has also been a director with the Texas Produce Association, South Texas Onion Committee and the National Council of Agriculture Employers. Besides his work on agricultural issues J is currently the Mayor for the City of Uvalde and before this position he was on the city council for four years.

Neal Carter Neal Carter

Neal Carter is president and founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits™ (OSF), a 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 beautiful Okanagan Valley. For nearly 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. Arctic apples are currently progressing through the deregulation processes 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.

James (Jim) FlattJames (Jim) Flatt

Dr. James (Jim) Flatt is the Chief Technology Officer at Synthetic Genomics, Inc., a  leader in the development and application of synthetic biology technology for sustainable production of fuels and chemicals and application in agriculture.  Jim has been involved in the the industrial biotechnology field for over 20 years.  Just prior to SGI, Jim was the Executive Vice President of Research & Development and Operations at Mascoma Corporation, a leader in the development of cellulosic biofuels.  Prior to Mascoma.  Jim served as Sr. Vice President of Research for Martek Biosciences Corporation (Columbia, MD), leading the development of nutritional fatty acids from microaglae which are now included in many infant formula and food products.  Prior to Martek, Jim was involved in microbial biotechnology research at Merck and Monsanto.

Jim received his undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduate degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of California-Berkeley and University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Jim served as the Chairman of the Industrial Advisory Board for the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Marine Biotechnology (MarBEC) at the Universities of Hawaii and California-Berkeley.

Brett P. Giroir, M.D.Brett P. Giroir

Dr. Brett Giroir is Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives for the Texas A&M University System and Principal Investigator for the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, a public-private partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services designed to enhance the nation’s emergency preparedness against emerging infectious diseases, including pandemic influenza, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

Dr. Giroir is a former director of the Defense Sciences Office at DARPA and chair of the Chemical and Biological Defense Panel for the Threat Reduction Advisory Committee (TRAC) for the U.S. Department of Defense. Giroir received his undergraduate education at Harvard University and his medical training at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He is a frequently published basic science and clinical investigator and currently holds professor appointments at the Texas A&M Colleges of Medicine and Engineering and an adjunct professor appointment at the Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service. He is the recipient of the Texas A&M System Award for Innovation and the U.S. Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.

Dennis Gonsalves, Ph.D.Dennis Gonsalves

Director, USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center

Dennis Gonsalves was born and raised on a sugar plantation in Hawaii.  He has been the Director of the USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii since 2002.  He received his BS in Horticulture (1965) and MS in Plant Pathology (1968) from University of Hawaii, and his PhD in Plant Pathology (1972) from the University of California at Davis.  He worked at the University of Florida from 1972-77 and at Cornell University from 1977 to 2002, rising to the endowed position of Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in 1995.  Gonsalves does fundamental and applied research to control plant viruses.  Gonsalves was selected to the Agriculture Research Service Science Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award in 2009.  He led the team that developed through the public sector the virus resistant transgenic papaya that saved the papaya industry in Hawaii.  For this work, they received the Alexander Von Humbolt Award in 2002 for the most significant accomplishment in American Agriculture in the past five years.

David Heron

David Heron is currently the Assistant Director of Policy Coordination Programs of Biotechnology Regulatory Services, the unit responsible for implementing the biotechnology regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). His primary responsibilities include the development of coherent and coordinated national and international policies, risk assessment, regulatory analysis, communication, and domestic and international regulatory capacity building in agricultural biotechnology. He has served in the APHIS biotechnology regulatory program since 1991, with the exception of year in which he served as task manager with the United Nations Environment Programme for eight country projects on the implementation of national biosafety frameworks (Bulgaria, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Kenya, Poland, Namibia, and Uganda).  He received his B.A. in biology from Gettysburg College and his Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Mark Hussey

Dr. Mark HusseyDr. Mark Hussey was appointed Vice Chancellor and Dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences in December 2008. As vice chancellor, Dr. Hussey provides leadership and oversight for The Texas A&M University System’s agricultural agencies: Texas A&M AgriLife Research, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas A&M Forest Service, and the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. He also serves as dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.

Before his appointment as vice chancellor and dean, Dr. Hussey served as the director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. The agency has more than 1,600 employees, including 550 doctoral-level scientists who conduct research, improving life through science and technology. During his tenure as director, Dr. Hussey led the agency through a strategic branding initiative and started a corporate relations team that brought in research contracts worth more than $15 million.

From 1983 to 1985, Dr. Hussey was an assistant professor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, where he conducted forage breeding and management research. He joined the faculty of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University as an assistant professor in 1985 and was promoted to professor in 1997. In 2001, Dr. Hussey became professor and head of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, a position he held until 2005. Dr. Hussey was named associate director of programs for the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (now Texas A&M AgriLife Research) in April 2005.

As co-leader of a collaborative forage grass improvement team, Dr. Hussey conducted research on the development of new breeding methods for subtropical forage and bioenergy crops, including the use of molecular tools to better understand the regulation and control of cold tolerance, hybrid vigor, seed production, and reproduction in those species.

Gregory JaffeGregory Jaffe

Director, Project on Biotechnology
Center for Science in the Public Interest

Gregory Jaffe is the Director of the Project on Biotechnology for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (“CSPI”), an advocacy and educational organization that focuses on nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science. CSPI was instrumental in pushing through the federal law to create the “Nutrition Facts” label with clear nutrition information and that set standards for nutrition and health claims on food labels.  CSPI is supported primarily by its 800,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter, a health and nutrition magazine published ten times a year.

Mr. Jaffe came to CSPI after a long and distinguished career in government service.  He first worked as a Trial Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division for seven years.  He then moved on to become Senior Counsel with the U.S. EPA, Air Enforcement Division, before joining CSPI to direct the Biotechnology project.  Over the last decade, he has been a strong advocate for federal positions in federal court and frequently has spoken publicly on behalf of EPA.  At EPA he was awarded a bronze medal for commendable service, a special achievement award, and a gold medal for performance.

Jaffe’s interest in biotechnology began early in his career when he wrote a law review article on regulatory issues surrounding biotechnology and genetically modified organisms. In the early 1990s, while at the Department of Justice, he advised the Assistant Attorney General on biotechnology issues and worked with a federal interagency committee addressing biotechnology policy.  He is currently a member of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology’s Stakeholders Forum and was a member of the University of Pennsylvania Bioethics Center’s GMO Consumer Values Panel. He has published articles on agricultural biotechnology in the Christian Science Monitor, the Food and Drug Law Institute’s Update magazine, and the Environmental Law Institute’s Environmental Forum Magazine.  He also has spoken at over a dozen conferences addressing agricultural biotechnology issues, both in the United States and abroad.  He is a recognized expert on the U.S. regulatory structure for agricultural biotechnology as well as consumer issues pertaining to agricultural biotechnology.

Gregory Jaffe earned his BA with High Honors from Wesleyan University in Biology and then received a degree from Harvard Law School.

Rick(e) KressRick Kress

Current President of Southern Gardens Citrus located in Clewiston, FL. Southern Gardens is a subsidiary of the U. S. Sugar Corporation. Southern Gardens is one of the largest grower of oranges in the State of Florida and a major supplier of Not From Concentrate Orange Juice to the major brands and private label grocery trade in the United States.

Graduated from Cornell University in 1973 with a B.S. degree in Food Science. Employed in the fruit, juice and vegetable industry for 39 years. Started as a night shift Quality Control Foreman with Libby, McNeill & Libby in 1973. Industry experience involves working for food manufacturing companies including Libby, McNeill & Libby, Nestle, Seneca Foods and Northland Cranberries, Inc. in a variety of senior management positions from agriculture through to and including Sales and Marketing.

Moved to Florida in September 2005 to join the Southern Gardens Citrus management team. Arrival in Florida coincided with the occurrences of the current citrus industry diseases, canker and greening. Southern Gardens Citrus and U. S. Sugar have taken a proactive position in working with all factions of the State of Florida and the overall world wide citrus industry in an effort to learn and deal with the current disease challenges and search for solutions and cures.

Currently serves on the Cornell University Institute of Food Science Advisory Council as well as the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station Advisory Council Task Force. Also has been past President of the Juice Products Association and Processed Apples Institute and is currently Chairman of the D. Glynn Davies Juice Products Association Scholarship program.

Wife of 39 years is Pat; 3 children with 9 grandchildren. Spare time is spent woodworking, gardening and playing golf.

Daniel Leskovar

Dr. Daniel LeskovarDaniel I. Leskovar received his B.S. in Horticulture (Agricultural Engineering) from the Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Argentina; graduate training from the University of Wageningen, Holland; M.S. in Vegetable Crops from the University of California, Davis in 1986, and Ph.D. in Vegetable Crops – Physiology from the University of Florida in 1991. He has been a member of the graduate faculty at Texas A&M University since 1992. Dr. Leskovar was named Director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde in 2011.

Dr. Leskovar’s vegetable physiology program focuses on understanding plant morphological and physiological adaptation mechanisms to environmental stresses, and development of integrated sustainable vegetable cropping systems. His research emphasis is on: 1) seed-transplant production and physiology to increase plant survival and enhance stand establishment; 2) plant hormones to modulate seedling growth; 3) root/shoot developmental responses to water conservation strategies and irrigation technologies; 4) impact of cropping systems on antioxidants and sensory attributes of vegetable crops; and 5) genotype selection for drought resistance, high yield, quality, and phytochemical content. Dr. Leskovar’s  program involves international cooperators.

Mary Ann LilaMary Ann Lila

Mary Ann Lila is Director of the Plants for Human Health Institute, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Research Campus.  She holds the endowed David H. Murdock Chair, and is a Professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences.  Through ground-breaking, transdisciplinary discovery and outreach, the team of faculty at the Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI)  pioneers a dramatic shift in the way the American public views and uses plant food crops – not merely as a source of nutrients and flavorful calories, but as a powerful resource for components that protect and enhance human health.  Integrated research in metabolomics, biochemistry, pharmacogenomics, breeding and postharvest attributes are aimed at development and promotion of mainstream fruit and vegetable produce with enhanced health benefits, and introduction of new or underappreciated crops and products from various sites throughout the globe, allowing consumers to make proactive, responsible dietary choices that benefit their own, and their family’s, health.  Dr. Lila’s own laboratory team focuses on both wild and domesticated  berries and  their wide-ranging health and unique human health benefits, including alleviation of the symptoms of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Current projects in the LilaLab include a Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Exploration Challenges project in Zambia, an NIH NIDDKD project on functional food innovations, the Medicines for Malaria Venture which (in collaboration with University of Cape Town and Rutgers University) examines promising plant-derived chemicals with potent anti-malarial efficacy; resurrecting and validating early leads from a WWII-era antimalarial screening program; a major blueberry genome sequencing initiative using state-of-the-art NextGen sequencing capacity, which focuses on the transcriptomes relevant to health-protective properties in the fruits; an NIH-funded probe of the hypoglycemic and anti-Parkinson’s disease properties of blueberries, and an EPA STAR program on tribal resources in American Indian/Alaska Native communities, the health protective properties of traditionally-used wild berries, and the threats imposed by climate change.

Lila was formerly Director (2006-2008) of ACES Global Connect (the international arm of the College of ACES, University of Illinois) and Associate Director of the nationally acclaimed Functional Foods for Health Program (1997-2000) at the University of Illinois.  Dr. Lila has been honored with the Paul A. Funk Scholarship Recognition Award (the premier research award in the College of ACES, University of Illinois), the Spitze Professorial Career Excellence Award, the Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, the University Scholar Award, the Amoco Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction, and the Lilly Endowment Teaching Fellowship. Dr. Lila has large ongoing research projects in Egypt, Central Asia, Oceania, Mexico Ecuador, Chile, and subSaharan Africa, and is Vice President of the Global Institute for BioExploration (GIBEX).  In 1999, Dr. Lila won a Fulbright Senior Scholarship to conduct research and outreach in New Zealand, and returns to Australia at least once/year.

R. Daniel Lineberger

Dr. Dan LinebergerDan Lineberger is professor and head of the department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station. Dr. Lineberger’s main area of expertise and research has been in the teaching and development of programs designed to integrate Web technology into teaching, research, and extension/outreach programs across all horticultural commodities and disciplines. Dr. Lineberger developed the World Wide Web site for the Texas Horticulture Program, Aggie Horticulture, a gateway to virtual information servers and Web-accessible, interactive databases.   Upon assuming the duties of Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs in June 1, 2008, Dr. Lineberger relinquished maintenance of the Aggie Horticulture network, but assumed responsibility for the teaching-oriented HortSciences Web site when it was created to reflect the difference in branding between the College and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Dr. Lineberger was named Head of the Department of Horticultural Sciences effective August 1, 2012.

Patricia McAllister

Patricia McAllister head shotPatricia McAllister is currently the acting National Manager of the Plant Biosafety Office (PBO) at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Ottawa. The PBO is responsible for the confined field trial program and the authorization for environmental release of plants with novel traits. Patricia was born and raised on a farm in New Brunswick, Canada that produced seed potatoes, various vegetable crops and beef cattle. She received her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Horticulture) and a Masters of Science (Food Science) from the University of Guelph. She joined Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development as a Seed Potato Specialist in 1997 and has been with the CFIA since 2009.

Alan McHughenAlan McHughen

Alan McHughen is a public sector educator, scientist and consumer advocate. After earning his doctorate at Oxford University, Dr McHughen worked at Yale University and the University of Saskatchewan before joining the University of California, Riverside. A molecular geneticist with an interest in crop improvement and environmental sustainability, he helped develop US and Canadian regulations covering genetically engineered crops and foods. He served on recent US National Academy of Sciences panels investigating the environmental effects of transgenic plants, and a second investigating the health effects of genetically modified foods. He is now Past President and Treasurer of the International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR). Having developed internationally approved commercial crop varieties using both conventional breeding and genetic engineering techniques, he has firsthand experience with the relevant issues from both sides of the regulatory process. As an educator and consumer advocate, he helps non-scientists understand the environmental and health impacts of both modern and traditional methods of food production. His award winning book, ‘Pandora’s Picnic Basket; The Potential and Hazards of Genetically Modified Foods’ (Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-850674-0), uses understandable, consumer-friendly language to explode the myths and explore the genuine risks of genetic modification (GM) technology.

Bill F. McCutchenBill F. McCutchen

Dr. Bill McCutchen began his role as an Associate Director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research within the Texas A&M University System in April 2006.  He was promoted to Executive Associate Director in December 2010.

McCutchen, a native Texan, facilitates oversight and direction of research programs across Texas A&M AgriLife Research.  His mission includes the development and implementation of strategic research initiatives.  McCutchen has been instrumental in facilitating the development of numerous research initiatives across corporate, federal and state partnerships totalling in excess of $60M in sponsored research since joining AgriLife.  He also helps facilitate the development of intellectual property across Texas A&M AgriLife.

McCutchen earned his bachelor’s in 1987 and master’s in 1989, both in entomology, from Texas A&M University and was awarded Texas A&M’s Distinguished Graduate Student Research Award in 1989.  He received his doctorate from the University of California-Davis in 1993 and was awarded the Young Scientist Award from the American Chemical Society in 1992.

McCutchen comes to Texas A&M AgriLife Research from DuPont Agriculture & Nutrition, where he was named a DuPont Research Fellow in 2002 and oversaw crop protection research and development across both agricultural biotechnology and chemistry programs.  In 2007, McCutchen was presented with the Henry Wallace Agricultural Revolution Impact Award, which is DuPont’s and Pioneer’s most prestigious research award for agriculture.  He has been granted and retains over 70 patents.  McCutchen received the 2011 Excellence in Innovation Award for the Texas A&M University System in Recognition of Innovative Research and Commercialization.  McCutchen is on several executive committees and boards and was the Chair of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council in 2011.

Robert I. Merker, Ph.D.Robert I. Merker

Dr. Merker received his bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of California, Davis.  After postdoctoral studies at the University of British Columbia and University of California, Davis, he came to the Food and Drug Administration as a research microbiologist in 1991, where he did research on the outer surface of Listeria monocytogenes, acid tolerance in Yersinia enterocolitica, and the food safety of apple cider production. In 2000, he became a Consumer Safety Officer in the Office of Food Additive Safety.  Dr. Merker specializes in issues relating to the safety of microbially derived food ingredients and microbes used as food ingredients and the safety of foods from new plant varieties.  Dr. Merker participated in the Working Group for the development of a Codex Alimentarius “Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods Produced Using Recombinant-DNA Microorganisms.”  Dr. Merker also has worked on a wide variety of Biotechnology-related issues for FDA, and was a member of an interagency task team that has developed and maintains a joint Internet site for government information about regulation of the products of modern biotechnology.  Dr. Merker was selected as a Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer in the Division of Petition Review in the Office of Food Additive Safety in July 2007, and moved to the Division of Biotechnology and GRAS Notice Review in 2010, where he supervises several regulatory and environmental specialists.  Dr. Merker oversees FDA’s Consultations on Food from New Plant Varieties.

Craig L. Nessler

Dr. Craig NesslerDr. Craig L. Nessler, who began his career as a research scientist at Texas A&M University in 1979, returned in 2009 to serve as director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, the state’s lead agency for research in the life sciences, natural resources and agriculture.

Previous to coming to AgriLife Research, for five years Nessler held a similar position as director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station at Virginia Tech. Under his leadership, the research faculty produced a 10 percent increase in new grant awards every year, raising the college’s national ranking from fourteenth to fifth in research expenditures in agriculture and natural resources.

Nessler started at Texas A&M in 1979 as an assistant professor of biology, later becoming a full professor, then associate head in the department of biology. He left for Virginia Tech in 2000 to head the department of plant pathology, physiology and weed science and later was promoted to director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station.

Nessler earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. He earned his doctoral degree in plant science with a pharmacology minor from Indiana University in 1976.

Steven G. Pueppke

Steven G. PueppkeSteven G. Pueppke is Associate Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University and Director of the MSU AgBioResearch. He has university-based responsibility for a portfolio of research focused on land use, water, climate change, food and agriculture, and renewable energy. Pueppke was awarded a B.S. degree from MSU in 1968 and received his Ph.D. in plant pathology from Cornell University in 1975. He is a former faculty member at universities in Florida, Missouri, and Illinois and served as guest professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and Philipps University in Marburg, Germany. He is past president of the Board of Directors of the National Council on Food and Agricultural Research and past chairperson of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council. He has served on the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture and on the Michigan Renewable Fuels Commission. A Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society and a member of numerous professional societies, including Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Xi, Pueppke has coauthored 125 peer reviewed scientific articles. In recognition of his efforts at building collaborations with French universities, he received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des palmes Académiques from the Republic of France in 2008.

John PurcellJohn Purcell

Dr. John Purcell is currently Vice President, Technology Development for Monsanto Vegetables and serves on Monsanto’s Vegetable Leadership Team. In this role, he heads a global team responsible for supporting the commercialization of vegetable seed products in diverse markets. John is also a Senior Technology Fellow at Monsanto.

John previously was the Cotton Technology Lead for Monsanto and served on Monsanto’s Technology Leadership Team. In that capacity, he oversaw a portfolio of technologies and products in the cotton pipeline that bring increasing value to the cotton industry globally. Prior to that role, he held numerous positions in Monsanto’s Technology Organization. He headed a research site in Mystic, Connecticut and led a research program in Cambridge, UK focusing on corn and wheat, respectively. John also led Scientific Affairs for Monsanto. In that role, he directed a diverse global team that concentrates on the benefits and issues of Monsanto’s biotechnology product portfolio and directly supports product approvals and acceptance. Prior to those assignments, John spent more than 10 years at Monsanto’s biotechnology research and development center in St. Louis, Missouri where he held jobs of increasing responsibility in the Biotechnology research organization. For several years, John headed Monsanto’s Insect Control program, which was responsible for the discovery, development and technical support of biotechnology insect control products. His role was later expanded to include all plant protection research including insect, fungal and nematode pests.

Prior to joining Monsanto, John was a post-doctoral researcher at the United States Department of Agriculture. His Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology was granted from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and focused on studies in Insect Biochemistry. He is an inventor on several patents, an author of numerous scientific papers, reviews and book chapters and is often invited to speak on agricultural technologies.

Thomas P. Redick Thomas P. Redick


Mr. Redick represents clients in the high-technology and agricultural biotechnology industry sectors with issues relating to regulatory approval, liability avoidance and compliance with industry standards addressing socioeconomic and environmental impacts – particularly “sustainability” initiatives in agriculture and high technology. Before establishing a solo international environmental consulting practice in 2005 in St. Louis, Missouri, he was a partner in Gallop, Johnson & Neuman L.C. Education: University of Michigan (J.D. 1985, B.A. high honors 1982) in Clayton MO. He is chair of the American Bar Association Section on Environment, Energy & Resources (ABA-SEER) Committee on Agricultural Management. After Mr. Redick was appointed to represent ABA on the Council for Agricultural Science & Technology (CAST), he was the first attorney to be elected President of CAST in its 40 year history.

Mr. Redick represents US soybean producers on regulatory approval, liability avoidance, intellectual property, and antitrust issues. As their representative to the Global Industry Coalition, he attends meetings of the the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. He has over 27 years experience practicing environmental and intellectual property law and co-author of four books on liability prevention and emerging technologies. He has a law degree and B.A with high honors from the University of Michigan.

Peter Schuerman

Dr. Peter SchuermanDr. Peter Schuerman is the Director of Innovation Management for Texas A&M AgriLife Research, where he works with researchers and industry to develop and execute commercialization strategies. Prior to joining AgriLife, Peter served as the Director for Licensing and Intellectual Property for The Texas A&M University System’s Office of Technology Commercialization, where he implemented novel operational procedures to achieve an unprecedented level of administrative and faculty support while significantly increasing licensing revenues and invention disclosure rates. During this time, working with AgriLife, he and his team helped the agency to develop significant industry relationships that continue to enhance its research mission.

Peter also served as the founder and Associate Director of UC Berkeley’s Industry Alliances Office, a program that achieved nearly a three-fold increase in revenue from industry sponsored research agreements in the first year of operation and specialized in closing deals in ninety days or less. He has also been a member of the commercialization programs at Rice University and the University of Florida. Peter has a BS in Botany from Colorado State University and a PhD in Genetics from UC Davis and is a USDA Postdoctoral Fellow.

Dr. Graham ScolesDr. Graham Scoles

Dr. Graham Scoles was born in the county of Norfolk in the UK.  His interest in agriculture began as he walked and worked on the fields of wheat and barley on all 12 acres of land that they owned.  He attended the University of Reading and while there took a one year break to work in the wheat breeding program at the Plant Breeding Institute (PBI) in Cambridge.  A scientist visiting the PBI encouraged him to travel to Canada for post-graduate work and thus he completed his graduate work in plant breeding at the University of Manitoba.  He was hired as a cytogeneticist by the University of Saskatchewan and has been a professor of Plant Sciences since 1979. He obtained training in molecular genetics/biotechnology during a sabbatical in the mid 1980’s and that led to work on genetic mapping of barley.  That project ultimately led to the barley and oat programs of the Crop Development Centre being among the first in the world to utilize molecular marker assisted breeding and all recently released barley and oat cultivars have been screened at the DNA level for various traits.  During his career at the University of Saskatchewan Graham developed the first course on the application of plant biotechnology to plant breeding, supervised over 30 graduate students and has been heavily engaged in the debate relating to genetic engineering of crops.  Graham currently serves as Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies) for the College of Agriculture and Bioresources.

Anthony (Tony) SheltonAnthony (Tony) Shelton

Anthony (Tony) Shelton is a Professor of Entomology and an International Professor and Associate Director of International Programs for Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He received his BA in Classics and Philosophy from St. Mary’s College of California, and worked in business before returning to graduate studies at the University of California, Riverside where he received his MS degree and his Ph.D. degree in 1979. He began his academic career at Cornell in 1979 where his research focuses on developing sound insect pest management strategies for vegetables with spin-offs for other crops. Components of his program include insect population ecology, biological control, plant resistance, agricultural biotechnology, insecticide resistance, and risk assessment of insect-resistant genetically engineered crops. His program has a strong commitment to outreach education for the agricultural community, the general public and international agriculture, especially in India and China. Tony served as the Associate Director of Research and the Cornell Experiment Station from 1993 through 2001. Among the awards Tony has received are the Entomological Society of America’s Award for Integrated Pest Management and its Recognition Award for Research. Tony is a Fellow of the Entomological Society of America.

Todd StaplesAgriculture Commissioner Todd Staples

Todd Staples is the 11th Texas Commissioner of Agriculture and recently was re-elected to serve a second four-year term in this statewide elected office. Commissioner Staples believes the free enterprise system and individual responsibility are the keys to prosperity for Texas.

From his earliest days of public service as a member of the Palestine city council through his tenures in the Texas House of Representatives and later the Texas Senate, Commissioner Staples has championed such critical issues as protection of private property owners’ rights, workers’ compensation reform, school finance reform and improving the education of Texas’ leaders of tomorrow, just to name a few.

As leader of the Texas Department of Agriculture, Commissioner Staples is diligent in his efforts to support private sector job creation and economic development across the Lone Star State; improve consumer protection from the grocery store to the gas pump; lead true eminent domain reform in Texas; and play an enormous role in continuing to improve the healthy lifestyles of young Texans.

He is also focused on the promotion of agricultural products and businesses using the GO TEXAN marketing program, and has expanded trade opportunities for Texas producers. Commissioner Staples has accomplished these priorities with a philosophy that puts family and taxpayer interests first while also focusing on efficiency.

Commissioner Staples was born in Anderson County where he was active in high school FFA and was elected state FFA vice president. He attended Texas A&M University where he graduated with honors with a degree in agricultural economics.

Commissioner Staples began serving in public office in 1989 when he was elected to the Palestine city council. In 1995 he was elected state representative and served three terms in the Texas House before being elected state senator in 2000 where he served two terms. His public service continues today as Agriculture Commissioner. Following his first election in 2006, he was re-elected to a second term in 2010.

Commissioner Staples and his wife, Janet, have four grown children.

Scott Thenell

Scott Thenell is founder and managing partner of Thenell & Associates LLC, offering expert regulatory advice to companies that make and market genetically engineered plant products. Mr. Thenell’s career spans more than 30 years in technical and regulatory service to the food processing and biotechnology seed industries. Since 2001, he’s helped clients reach their regulatory goals for biotechnology-derived food and energy crops, industrial products, biopesticides and soil additives. He is a co-founder of the Agricultural BioTech Regulatory Network, an international network of independent regulatory professionals serving the agricultural biotechnology industry from product concept to commercialization (www.abtrnetwork.com). Mr. Thenell earned degrees in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and regulatory science from the University of Southern California, School of Pharmacy.

Chris A. Wozniak, Ph.D.Chris A. Wozniak

Dr. Wozniak received his training in Plant Pathology and Life Sciences at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where his research efforts surrounded the understanding of cell differentiation and morphogenesis in Sorghum bicolor. Chris then joined the laboratory of Dr. David Galbraith at UNL to develop insect resistant cotton. He subsequently worked with Dr. Lowell Owens, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, in Beltsville, MD in 1988 to work on the development of transformation protocols in sugarbeet. After two years as a post-doctoral associate, Dr. Wozniak joined the Sugarbeet Research Unit of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Fargo, ND where he worked on biological control of an insect pest.

After 18 years in plant science research, Chris entered the world of regulatory science at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticide Programs as a risk assessor and human health specialist. At EPA, Chris performed risk assessments of microbial and plant-based pesticides, particularly in the areas of human health and environmental consequences of gene flow.

For four years, Dr. Wozniak served as the National Program Leader for Food Biotechnology and Microbiology at the USDA’s Cooperative States Research, Education and Extension Service. While at USDA-CSREES, Chris directed two competitive grant programs in the areas of microbial food safety and environmental risk assessment for products of biotechnology.

In February of 2008, Chris rejoined the U.S. EPA as a Biotechnology Special Assistant in the Office of Pesticide Programs, focusing on issues of biotechnology policy, interagency coordination of biotech regulation, and environmental risk assessment of plant-incorporated protectants.

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