August 18, 2004

A not-for-profit consortium of 37 leading agricultural research agencies and universities in North America has chosen the University of Tennessee and the University of Kentucky to co-host its annual conference in 2005.

Scheduled in Nashville for June 27-29, the 17th meeting of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council will hold open discussions about the safe, ethical, and beneficial development of agricultural biotechnology.

Jack Britt, vice president for agriculture for UT, has assumed a leadership role on the planning committee and Scott Smith, UK dean of agriculture, is administrative liaison.  Nancy Cox, UK associate dean of agriculture for research, is incoming NABC chair.  Ric Bessin, UK entomologist and member of Kentucky’s Biotechnology Research and Education Initiative, is conference committee chair.

The conference is expected to explore the theme “agricultural biotechnology: beyond food and energy to health and the environment.”

Agricultural producers and consumers as well as representatives from corporate, government and academic institutions and public-interest groups are expected to participate.

NABC works to define issues and public policy options related to biotechnology associated with food, agriculture, and the environment and to promote increased understanding of the scientific, economic, legislative, and social issues associated with agricultural biotechnology.

Membership in the NABC is open to institutions that support agricultural biotechnology research and development.

“The University of Tennessee is pleased to be co-sponsoring this meeting,” said UT President John Petersen. “Groups and individuals across the world are questioning the impact of new products available because of biotechnology. They are demanding a role in the discussion of public research agendas, and this meeting provides a forum for open discussions,” Petersen said.

UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. also endorsed the conference. “This conference will explore constraints and opportunities associated with commercialization of university technologies, and will particularly focus on the role of public policy related to regulatory and economic development issues,” Todd said.

The NABC provides a network for member institutions to work together on the complex issues that arise regionally and nationally. Previous NABC meetings have addressed such issues as sustainable agriculture; food safety and nutritional quality; gene discovery, access, and ownership; world food security; and industrial consolidation.

In 2003, UT opened a state-of-the-art plant biotechnology building that Dennis Grimaud says symbolizes a commitment to perform first-class research and development for the benefit of the state and region. Grimaud chairs the board of directors of the Tennessee Biotechnology Association and serves as president for Premier Micronutrient Corp. in Nashville.

At UK, the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center has launched an array of research projects that examine new crop opportunities, and KTRDC is partnering with the Kentucky Natural Products Alliance to bring together innovators and entrepreneurs.  Research conducted at the UK College of Agriculture’s new Advanced

Genetic Technologies Center is harnessing the power of innovative scientific applications to improve the state’s forage and livestock industries.

On July 12 Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher announced a new state effort to support high-tech companies that develop desirable products such as pharmaceuticals from plants and other farm products.  To advance this effort Fletcher has created a new Life Sciences/Biosciences Consortium comprised of education, industry and government leaders.


Writer:     Patricia Clark McDaniels, 865-974-7141     

Sources:  Nancy Cox, 859-257-3333; Jack Britt, 865-974-7342