32 / SEEDWORLD.COM DECEMBER 2018 works to raise awareness of the importance of plant breeding to the U.S. economy. “We wanted to have a way of influencing funding agencies or directing funding to promote plant breeding. We have goals we need to work on and deliver,” says Ksenija Gasic, the PBCC chair and associate professor of horticulture, peach genetics and breeding at Clemson University. “We were concerned the national level of awareness was not where it should be. The National Association of Plant Breeding and the PBCC together are doing a great job of making an awareness of plant breeding in everyday life, especially among students and the young generations who will replace breeders in the following years.” 2018 Mood Gauge In many respects, it has been a challenging year, say seed industry leaders, due to consolidation confusion and economic angst. However, there’s also a feeling of optimism as a result of increased opportunities in the wake of uncertainty. Although farmers are producing high yields, they’re getting less money for those acres due to low commodity prices. Input costs haven’t gone down either so those expenditures are cut- ting into farmers’ bottom lines. When that happens, the farming community hurts and eve- rybody up the chain also starts to feel the financial squeeze, says Martin. This creates anxiety for the farming community. Added to this is large-scale consolidations, causing confusion and con- cern for farmers. “We’ve seen movements with Dow and DuPont, Syngenta and ChemChina, and Monsanto and Bayer — as there are more consolidations, there are more situations out there that concern farmers. Are they going to see the same type of technical inno- vation they’ve seen for the past two decades since the advent of GMOs and Bt products in the marketplace? Are we still going to see the genetic gains? Those are all questions and troubling concerns,” Martin says. Yet, there’s optimism. Optimism for solving these issues and for continuing to build business, as well as optimism about an industry that takes care of its own. “Yes, there’s concern and [IPSA] members seem guarded, but at the same time there’s optimism that we’re going to do our jobs and we’re going to be the best we can be. You know the farm- ers are going to take care of us and we’re going to take care of them,” says Martin. Furthermore, the confusion surrounding consolidation is cre- ating opportunity. In this changeable space, Syngenta is “dou- bling down” on talent acquisition, breeding and trait technology investments, on building its brands, as well as increasing its capa- bilities through collaborations, says Hollinrake. According to Keller, the vibe at the 69th ISF World Seed Congress was also upbeat and optimistic. “This year I felt more engagement than ever. There is a will to engage. What has united all of us is our shared vision — best quality seeds, accessible for all farmers to support sustainable agriculture and food security.” Innovation Shines The seed industry must continue to innovate, says Keller. In fact, so important is innovation to the sector, the theme of the latest ISF congress was “Where Innovation Shines.” At the congress, ISF put forward eight position papers to drive the industry’s objectives forward. “The priority of the seed industry is to continue to innovate and bring the best quality seeds to farmers in times of climate change and in times of increased pests and diseases around the world to support sustainable agriculture and food security,” he says. To support innovation, consistent criteria for regulatory over- sight on plant breeding innovation is essential. “We need to be able to continue to innovate, but innovation itself brings nothing to farmers. If you’re not able to bring innova- tion to the farmers, that means within consistent regulations, the thing will not fly. Support is coming thanks to clear, consistent regulations allowing us to innovate and bring quality seeds to farmers,” says Keller. In addition to innovation, Martin also believes adoption of new technologies is key to the success of his association’s members and to farmers. “We’re in a new, rising technological world. Seed companies have to be able to adapt to the new realities of what technology brings. I see them embracing some of the newer technologies which they can work with their farmers on,” he says. “I think independent seed companies have to deliver on the product promise, and they have to have high trust and integrity, so that farmers absolutely trust them. And they have to honor that by never violating that trust, and on top of that they have to be innovative within the new technologies that are coming into play. I do believe our members are going in that direction.” SW