|DATE:||July 11, 2000|
|CONTACT: ||Jane Stickley|
| ||(703) 837-8140|
ASTA Annual Convention Gateway to Information Superhighway and Future of Agriculture
Washington, DC-About 550 seed industry professionals gathered in San Francisco for the American Seed Trade Association’s (ASTA’s) 117th Annual Convention on June 18-22, 2000. The meeting, “Gateway to the Millennium,” focused on agricultural e-commerce and biotechnology in addition to ASTA division and committee updates. ASTA President Wayne Beck (now Past-President) kicked off the meeting with a “State of the Seed Industry” address, noting the tremendous past progress and promising future of agriculture and ASTA.
“When civilization emerged nearly 10,000 years ago, about 80 percent of the population was directly involved in agricultural production,” Beck said. “Today, less than three percent of the population produces crops in most industrialized countries, yet we produce more food now than ever in history ... Farmers moved from the digging stick of early seed planting to the seed drill in the early 1700s [to] mechanization in the late 1800s and 1900s [to] hybridization in the 1930s [to] early applications of modern biotechnology in the 1970s. By the 1990s, genetics had become the new foundation of agriculture.
“ASTA, which began with a meeting of less than 40 seedsmen in 1883 with a budget of only a few hundred dollars (annual dues were only $5 in those days), now represents 900 member companies all over the world,” Beck continued. “ASTA has gradually moved from a domestically focused organization to a global one.”
In a June 20 General Session on E-Commerce, Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications, noted factors driving e-commerce today: accessible and affordable broadband technology that allows for high-speed access to the Internet, transaction capability, global markets, and online and offline advertising. Fulton Breen, CEO of Expert Support Inc., said that “agriculture is wired” with 70 percent of U.S. farmers with annual revenues of at least $500,000 have Internet access. According to market research, he said one in every four farmers is likely to
make an online purchase this year and 21 percent of all agricultural input purchases will be seed. James Vogtle, lead analyst for the Boston Consulting Group, added that e-commerce will help all businesses enhance their customer reach and value.
The June 21 General Session on Biotechnology featured Paul Gilding, chairman of Ecos Corporation and former executive director of Greenpeace International, and Ted McKinney, Global Leader for Public Affairs-Biotechnology at DowAgroSciences and Interim Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information. Gilding said that the biotechnology industry erred in public relations about agricultural biotechnology by depicting it as having no limits and by not initially supporting biotech food labeling. Citing market research, McKinney said that most U.S. consumers (70%) have heard something about biotechnology, and the majority (58% and 69%, respectively) support its use to “develop new varieties of crops” and “develop plants to produce new fibers and plastics.” Few consumers (10%) actually oppose the use of biotechnology, he noted. Consumers that are currently neutral about biotechnology will be more likely to accept it when informed about its safety and benefits, McKinney concluded. Industry efforts this year to do so have already demonstrated this, he said.
Two ASTA committee name changes were approved during the convention: 1) three committees (Alfalfa, Clover & Other Legumes; Conservation, Pasture & Forage; and Small Grains) merged into the Forage and Small Grains Committee and 2) the Seedborne Disease Subcommittee of the International Committee merged into its Phytosanitary Subcommittee.
Photos taken at ASTA’s 2000 Annual Convention may be viewed online at http://www.eprints.com/msp by clicking on ASTA Annual Convention, then entering the user ID asta and password convention. JPEG files of online photos may be obtained from Jane Stickley upon e-mail request at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 118th ASTA Annual Convention, “The Winds of Change,” will be June 17-20, 2001, at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, Texas. It will be held for the first time with the Mexican seed trade association (La Asociación Mexicana de Semilleros, A. C.).
Founded in 1883, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA)is one of the oldest trade organizations in the United States. Its membership consists of about 850 companies involved in seed production and distribution, plant breeding, and related industries in North America. As an authority on plant germplasm, ASTA advocates science and policy issues of industry importance. Its mission is to enhance the development and free movement of quality seed worldwide.