Among many issues that have been debated by our Society over the years have been about the impact of technology on productivity in agriculture and how much regulatory review of the products of technology is really necessary.  A recent review summarizes scientific opinion for productivity1 and a CAST Issue paper2 discusses the effect of regulatory barriers on research in university and small businesses.   Productivity noted in peer review articles from 1996 to 2016 clearly indicated that genetically engineered (GE) maize had grain yields from 6-25% higher compared to their non-transgenic controls, and three different toxins (i.e. mycotoxins) were from 30-40% lower compared to their non-transgenic controls.  This review clearly supported the use of GE crops.  The CAST issue paper addresses the potential contribution and impact of public, university, and small business on the development of GE crop varieties.  The variety of crop species and traits evaluated are highlighted while indicating that the number of those progressing to commercial release is small.  The summary conclusion of this in depth article is that diversity of potential products and use in more agricultural species is limited by current regulatory policies.   Safety experience of GE crop species now spans near 30 years with little or no public concern in medical or industrial applications but vocal concern by some in agricultural crop species despite the lack of a single documented case of harm2.   Interestingly the significant productivity increases of GE crops mentioned above1note that “concerns about safety remain”.   The paradox exemplified in these reviews of an unqualified success of GE crops commercially on a global basis is that the use is limited to relatively few plant species and traits cultivated on literally millions of acres. A survey of the literature including our journals (SIVB Plant and Animal) indicates a much more diverse array of traits and species that might have substantial value in more localized geography and for various nutritional and human related needs than is immediately apparent.  Please note that these issues are likely to appear at our Annual Meeting in St. Louis!  Although these examples are in plants, equally impressive acceptance and use of animal cell culture technology have been noted, especially in the CRISPER research area.

Our Society prides itself on providing leadership experience to our student, postdoc and early career scientists among others, in sponsoring first class scientific meetings that address topical research and the opportunity to personally discuss the issues of the day with world-renowned scientists.  One other thing you’ll note is that we have an orderly transition of officers in SIVB—one needs not fear that I or any other President of SIVB will serve year after year with their annoying habits and peculiar shortcomings AND that the diversity of opinion within our Board is healthy and emphasizes discussion! If you wish to see something different in SIVB—then it’s time to think of volunteering to serve in the many leadership positions we have for student and postdoc leaders, program ideas and in serving on the Board of Directors.  A quick review of our SIVB web site https://sivb.org or In Vitro Report https://www.sivb.org/InVitroReport/ highlights the different committees, current officers, and contact information if you want to know more.

During my time as President, the thing I value most was being surrounded with a group of leaders and members I could count on who were available for their wise advice and courteous beyond my wildest expectations.   I thank my friends and critics alike for a great experience!

1Elisa Pellegrino et.al.,Scientific Reports| (2018) 8:3113 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-21284-2

2Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), 2018, Issue Paper #59, Alan McHugen et al., Ames, IA

Dwight Tomes
President, Society for In Vitro Biology