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Agrimarketing : American Seed Trade Association
SALUTE TO ASTA! THESEEDINDUSTRY: PAST-PRESENT-FUTURE Editor’s note:We invited leaders in the seed industry to share their insights on a number of the issueswithin their business and their trade association. HOWCONSUMERS HAVE BENEFITED FROMTHE SEED INDUSTRY by Craig Newman VPSales&Mktg AgReliant Genetics ASTAReg’l VP Themost significant benefit fromthe seed industry is the abundant food supply enjoyed by consumers. Over the past 70 years, incredible yield increases have been achieved in allmajor field crops in the U.S. andmore than 50%of the gains can be attributed to genetic improvements through seeds. Innovations in seed have also Newman improved the nutritional value of food. For example, newvarieties of oilseeds have resulted in the elimina- tion of transfat oils in some restau- rants. Future efforts to improve consumer dietswill startwith enhancements and improvements in fruits, vegetables and field crops whichwill originate fromthe seeds. Of course, consumers benefit from lower prices of food due to increased crop yields coming fromseeds. Due to the improvements in seeds and agricultural production, food is one of the best bargains in the U.S. There are several other consumer benefitswhich aren’t as obvious.New flower seed varieties result in newand brighter flower colors.Consumers benefit frommore attractive lawns by usingmore resilient turf varieties com- ing fromnewseed varieties. The seed industry is also con- tributing to the efforts of the U.S. to becomemore energy independent as specific corn hybrids can help increase ethanol production. Veg- etable seed improvements have resulted in better tasting vegetables and vegetables and fruitwith longer shelf lives. Since all these benefits originate with seed, themotto of the American Seed Trade Association is very appropriate…“First the Seed!” MAJOR EVENTS IMPACTING THE SEED INDUSTRY FROMA MULTI-NATIONAL COMPANY’S PERSPECTIVE by Dr.Owen J. Newlin Retired Sr.VP Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. 1986 ASTAChairman, Honorary Member There have beenmanymajor events, so I’ll list three thatmay be themost sig- nificant that I have observedinmy 43 years of being involved in the industry. The biggest eventwas in 1980 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that utility patent rights could be extended to living organisms. The rulingwas challenged, but later sup- ported in 1985 by the U.S. Patent Board of Appeals and Interferences which ruled that plants could be patented under the utility patent law. These rulings encouraged compa- nies to invest in researchwiththe assurance their intellectual property would be protected andtheycould earn a return on their investment. It opened the door for the extensive research and developmentof trans- genicplants providing seedproducts which arenowplantedon over 80%of theU.S. corn and90%of soybean acres. Second is the overall impact of technology and its impact on yields, in particular corn yields. From1860 until 1926, national corn yields aver- aged 30 bushels/acre. These, of course,were all open pollinated vari- eties. Pioneer sold the first commer- cial hybrids—double crosses—in 1926, but the adoption of hybrids was slow.Asmore acreswere planted to them, the national yield average grewto about 60 bushels/ acre by 1960. Single cross hybrids were then introduced and by 1995 the average yield had risen to 130 bushels/acre. The yield increase in the single cross periodwas about 1.8 bushels per acre per year. The first transgenic gene intro- duced in cornwas Bt to protect the plant fromthe EuropeanCorn Borer in 1996 and there have beenmany trans- genic products introduced since then.USDAesti- mates this year’s average yieldwill be 153 bushels/acre. The yield increase after the intro- duction of trans- genic hybrids has been over two bushels per acreper year.U.S. corn yield projections for the next ten years are expected to be over three bushels per acre per year. The third is the continuous con- Dr.Newlin solidation of seed companies and the composition of their newowners. In the early 1960s, therewere 300 com- panies producing and selling seed corn in the U.S. Upjohn, a pharma- ceutical company,was the first “out- side” company to enter the seed businesswhen they purchased Asgrowin 1968. These newer players have exten- sive research resources and have successfully developed transgenic products using biotechnology. This bringsme back tomy first point. In addition to having the resources, they also have the finan- cial incentive to employ it in seed and trait research because their intel- lectual property is protected. THE PRESENT STATEOF ASTA by Kelly Keithly President, Keithly-Williams Seeds 2008 ASTAChairman AsAmerican Seed TradeAssociation (ASTA)Chairman, I amexcited about themany opportunities for the associ- (more on page 16) American Seed Trade Association Supplement s AgriMarketing 15
November December 2008