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Biotechnology, public-private research discussed at international ag (ABIC) conference in Fargo

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Dave Baudler got his start in agriculture long before biotechnology was a force in farming.

At first, the managing director of Cargill’s North American grain supply chain said the use of tools such as genetic engineering was viewed as a faster way for farmers to get things done.

But he admitted the industry “could’ve done better” in explaining these new tools to others along the way.

“I don’t think the consumer cares whether it benefits the farmer or the industry or the people that are doing the process,” he said. “They’re really worried about their food today.”

Baudler spoke Monday, Sept. 19, as part of the 2016 Agricultural Bioscience International Conference that kicked off Sunday, Sept. 18, and continues through Wednesday, Sept. 21, at the Fargodome and Holiday Inn.

It’s the first time the 20th annual event has come to the U.S., and Roger Reierson said Fargo was the right host city because of the Red River Valley’s rich agricultural background and the extensive research done at North Dakota State University.

The conference, hosted by AdFarm, NDSU and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, brought hundreds of researchers, industry leaders, growers and more to town, something AdFarm CEO Reierson said could showcase the state to an international audience.

“The biggest thing I see is putting a spotlight on agriculture and specifically the work NDSU and the Agriculture Department does,” he said.

The deployment of biotechnology to farmers, and consumer acceptance of such foods and products in general, hasn’t gone quite as expected in the industry, according to Baudler.

It started with people “trying to do good things to increase productivity,” he said, but rapid changes made some farmers and consumers feel like they were “forced” into it.

“The way I personally think about this is over time, I think the marketplace will target people when you provide choices to them that they want,” he said.

While Baudler said the message of science-based improvements in farming practices “doesn’t resonate” with the average person, he said consumers are eager for examples from industry officials and producers on how these new tools have benefited them.

He called for researchers in the audience to find those two or three “very consumer-driven” things that could change the industry and become new consumer must-haves.

Other conference speakers on Monday discussed public-private research collaboration, health, regulations and pulse crops, which includes dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. Several other topics were slated for Tuesday and Wednesday, including talking about agriculture to the general public, innovation and the need to feed a projected global population of 9 billion by 2050.

Story written by Ryan Johnson and published by Forum News Service

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