Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Giant Highlights

At a time of technology and globalization, many of the experts in this year’s Giant Views of the Industry had interesting stories to tell about being adaptable. Enjoy some of the highlights of their news and insights.

LLP

“[Low level presence] has become quite a bit of a challenge and that really is because of the regulatory process throughout the world. As the global seed leader in new research and development in the seed industry, we’ve got to continue working with our government so that it’s interacting with our trading partners to address new regulations for biotech products and their countries. It’s going to continue to evolve, you’re going to continue to see a lot of adoption of biotechnology products. China has approved two products in its country in rice and corn, you’ve got India looking at opportunities, you’ve got food shortages throughout the world, and new developments in biotechnology are going to expedite dealing with those situations. But, we’ve got to make sure that there is a sound low level policy globally and it doesn’t impede trade.”—Andy LaVigne of the American Seed Trade Association.

Mutagenesis Revolution

What is the difference between Cibus’ Rapid Trait Development System and transgenic technology? “The fundamental difference is that transgenic technology uses foreign DNA. It involves taking foreign DNA from a plant, another species, and inserting it into a plant. We have learned how to harness a natural mechanism within the plant and we actually encourage the plant to make its own natural mutation, so there’s no foreign DNA. Therefore, we are a mutagenesis technology; we’re very sight specific. What does that mean? The benefit is, quite frankly, it’s about one-tenth of the cost of transgenic technology. Our development projects typically run somewhere around seven million dollars over a three- to four-year period. That’s about roughly a tenth what it would cost to do a transgenic project when you include all the regulatory aspects and everything that goes into the development of a project.”—David Voss of Cibus

Open Architecture Marketing

“There is demand for what we offer, which is a little different from what some people offer. GreenLeaf has a marketing plan which is what we call open architecture. Meaning, you can take any of our males and females and put them together in any combination you want. And people do that—they put together combinations we may not recommend because they have a specific niche market in mind. They can put together any combination of traits, any combination of genetics, in order to make themselves successful.”—Dana Eaton of GreenLeaf Genetics

Patent Expiration

“It’s about innovation and bringing new technology, and continuing to increase the profitability of our farmer customers.”“We’ve been very clear that we’re going to continue to support the regulatory framework [for Roundup Ready One technology] around the world through 2017 which is about three years after that patent expiration. Patent expiration is something that’s inevitable—we all know that it’s there and it’s coming so we’ve been in that planning mode for some time. And to be clear, there was some speculation out there that we were going to make companies destroy seed and I wonder ‘how does somebody draw that conclusion about us’ because that’s just not who we are. No, we’re not going to make anybody destroy seed. What I’m focused on is Roundup Ready Yield brings farmers a significantly better product, it yields better than Roundup Ready One and that, for us, is how we look at it as a company. It’s about continuing to bring innovation to farmers … it’s about innovation and bringing new technology, and continuing to increase the profitability of our farmer customers.”—Brett Begemann of Monsanto Company

Succession Success

Is there a long-term strategy to keep Barenbrug a family enterprise? “Yes, that happened already a couple of years ago— Barenbrug retained the full ownership of the company by buying back 30 percent of the shares which were in the hands of the banks. The second step was that we made the fourth-generation ready to take over the company’s management and they are now at the helm of the boat and leading the company. And the last step is we are building on a strategy of a long-term investment in research development and marketing in order to expand our activities worldwide.”—Stefan van der Heijden of Barenbrug

Forecasting Supply and Demand

“It’s a major question today—do we have what the customer wants in terms of traits? We always know that when we’re trying to forecast and put production plans together in March based on what our grower is going to want the next March, we’re playing the great ‘Carnac the Magnificent’ with the Johnny Carson show in mind, but I think that we’re going to go through a time again where our salespeople, our field representatives, need to really sit down and talk to growers in terms of reminding them that you may not want to move to an earlier hybrid even though we had a wet fall, that your grain was a little wetter. Last time this happened was 1993—do you really think you were planting the wrong hybrid for the last 14 years? So there could be some specific maturity groups that have some tighter seed supply issues, some certain traits, but I think the overall seed supply is in place.”—David Hignst of Hoegemeyer Hybrids

Benefits to Non-GM Technology

“We’re not opposed to transgenic technology, we’re just an alternative to transgenic technology. And what drives a company like us is that we are faster to the market—it’s easier for us to get through the regulatory process, which is a significant burden on companies. We’ve actually obtained regulatory approvals in some parts of the world—the USDA has reviewed our technology and they agree with us that it is a mutagenesis technology and we’re clean. We are lower cost in the total development package and that means the farmers, ultimately, are going to be saving money in the long run with utilizing our technology.”—David Voss of Cibus

Investing in Wheat

“We like to participate in a crop where we can create value for farmers that can take a significant step change in productivity, and do that in a marketplace where we can be rewarded. When we look at wheat in particular, it’s a crop where we believe we can do that. There’s some great technology coming that can make a step change in productivity. I believe wheat producers as a general rule are open and receptive to technology investments in wheat, probably more so than they were in the past. If we can deliver on bringing those expected values I think the industry will be there to support us in bringing those forward.”—Brett Begemann of Monsanto

The Future of Forage

“If we would have only had the financial crisis then I think it would be not a crisis for the industry, but what we have seen is the international crisis came together with a lot of other problems like bad weather and overproduction, and that all together made a big crisis in the grass seed industry.” However, the timeline for recovery is already underway. “People are adapting their production plans and that will probably take another yearand then we’ll probably be back on normal levels.” And the future looks bright for forages. “We are seeing better varieties in more remote areas available. Secondly, there are a number of additional technologies which can support the strength of genetics, for example, in certain markets we are working with safe endophytes which can really support the genetics. The next step, of course, is that we have to explain to our customers the quality of these varieties and how to manage them, and that sometimes is a problem due to the varying professionalism of our customers. In some countries you have big operations that understand grass. And other countries you have people who love tractors and cows and the grass is something that is green and outside and they have to be taught the value of the grass. … We have to explain to our customers that the way these new products are developed is very sustainable and hopefully consumers are going to pay a little bit more for them.”—Stefan van der Heijden of Barenbrug

A Book on Germplasm

“We’re a foundation seed company and foundation seed companies represent their products through a book. We don’t sell really anything with the book per say, it is like our ‘cliff notes,’ if you’re a college student of our products. We modify the information in the book every year and I like to keep it modifi ed, changed and improved. You get basic information on the performance, production characteristics and characteristics of the inbred and the hybrid. And the book is backed up by years of multi-location yield testing.”—Dana Eaton of GreenLeaf Genetics

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