Seed World

Giant Highlights Germination January 2012

Giant Highlights

With seed poised to meet the food shortage challenge, many of the experts in this year’s Giant Views of the Industry had interesting stories to tell about staying competitive and capitalizing on opportunity. Enjoy some of the highlights of their news and insights.

Hybrid Wheat on the Horizon
“We’re employing technology such as double haploid breeding, molecular markers and other new wave breeding technology. We’re also excited about progress we’ve made towards hybrid wheat varieties, which we hope to bring to market later in the decade, as well as a wider variety of native traits.”—Norm Dreger of Syngenta

A Lawyer’s Advice on IP Protection
“I think one [way to avoid problems with IP] is to become educated about where the pitfalls are, where the dangers are, so breeders and seed companies can protect themselves and not get into trouble. And then when they come to me, I learn what they are doing and look at whether it is going to potentially cause them any legal problems or not. Mainly, however, breeders or seed companies come to me because they want to protect their own intellectual property. In that case, we need to do an assessment of that intellectual property space—we have to see what it is that they invented and whether or not there are already other people out there claiming that same invention or a similar one—and then try to figure out a path forward. The big question to answer is how they can claim what is unique to what they discovered so they can protect it.”—Erich Veitenheimer of Cooley LLP

Cleaner Seeds
What is INCOTEC’s new ThermoSeed technology? “ThermoSeed is a unique innovative treatment for effective control of seed-borne pathogens by the use of hot humid air. Making seeds clean is the future and it will become an industry standard as a preventative measure. We are very excited about it. We can treat seed from 15 tonnes/hour to a few hundred kilos/hour, and [we can treat everything] from flower and vegetable seed to cereals, so it’s a very broad range of seeds that we are now introducing to this technology on a global level. The other development is our seed selection system using X-ray technology, where we look inside each seed—a computer looks at the picture and indicates whether the embryo is going to develop into a good plant. There are four machines up and running this year at INCOTEC, running 24/7 [and] selecting tomato seeds one by one, and that’s quite innovative technology.”—JanWillem Breukink of INCOTEC

Designer Crops
“One opportunity we’re excited about is looking at certain crops and designing them for end use. We’ve put a fair amount of work into flax; we have a fairly significant flax breeding program within Viterra, and are really looking at flax to meet the needs of end-users. This year we launched NuLin which is a high linolenic acid variety of flax which is meeting the needs of end-users both from a consumer perspective [and for] the industrial users of flax as well.”—Monte Kesslering of Viterra

Beating the Recession
“On the forage crop side there wasn’t really a recession, and I think that speaks to the strength of the Canadian banking system and also our systems of supply management. A lot of our clients are dairy-based and covered by the milk marketing board and it has remained stable—supply of milk has remained stable, consumption of milk has remained stable and the people that are suppliers into that sector have stayed relatively stable through these years as well, including Pickseed.”—Robert Clark of Pickseed Companies Group

Roadblocks to UPOV 1991
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about UPOV 1991. For example, that UPOV 1991 would mean farmers wouldn’t be able to save the production from their farms to use as seed, and that’s not true. In fact, UPOV 1991 has specific language around what we call the farmers’ exception to the plant breeders’ right. There was also some misinformation out there about the enforcement ability in UPOV 1991. Press releases went out from some organizations that said if you were found to be in contravention of plant breeders’ rights we could seize your farm and that’s not true. The actual enforcement measures are actually up to the company that has had their rights breached and it doesn’t even prescribe that in UPOV 1991. There was so much misinformation out there that people were nervous, but [CSTA is] starting to work with some of the farm organizations to get better information out there.”—Patty Townsend of CSTA

From Breeder to Lawyer
“I spent part of my childhood growing up and working on a vegetable farm on the eastern shore of Maryland. I received a Bachelor of Agronomy from Washington State University, during which I worked for the USDA in lentil and chickpea breeding. Then I went to the University of Madison in Wisconsin and received a doctorate in plant breeding and plant genetics with a minor in statistics. I worked for DeKalb/Pfizer Genetics as a biostatistician and corn breeder for about eight years. Wanting to take my career in a different direction, I became a primary examiner in plant biotechnology at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I was one of the first plant breeders they had in the office and it was an exciting time. I started law school at Georgetown while I was an examiner, and eventually in the mid-90s spun out into law firms, where I’ve been ever since.”—Erich Veitenheimer of Cooley LLP

Getting Serious about Cereals
“There’s no doubt industry needs to work together [on cereal research], the reason being when you think about a grower and the farm operation, we’re not going to have the answer to every one of his or her issues. So we really need to look at the gaps within the offer we have and then look for partnerships and collaborations to try and fill the gaps. This also isn’t going to be a cheap, short-term venture to try to ‘technify’ wheat; we’re talking about decades and a great deal of money so on that front as well there needs to be partnerships and collaborations because it’s going to take everybody’s resources, efforts and expertise to crack this nut.”