The first annual meeting as the new society president was both exciting and humbling. Even after decades in the society, I never appreciated the full range of presidential duties. Those duties include presentation of awards which is a great honor. I was also unprepared for the number of photographs to be taken. Despite the best efforts of our skilled photographer, past president Dwight Tomes, only the award recipients came out looking good. That is as it should be.
Our scientific and social programs were excellent and I want to thank David Songstad and the program and the local organizing committees for their successful efforts. Our meeting theme, Gene Editing, was both very timely and brought us a superb key note speaker, Rachael Haurwitz, president of Caribou BioSciences. I should also thank our meeting sponsors again for their contributions because it is their donations that support our scientific program and underwrite the free student registration program for the society. One sponsor was not named but its contribution, a considerable quantity of nutritional beverage, was certainly appreciated at our social functions.
The SIVB has had a long and productive association with the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). A number of SIVB members are active with CAST including Nancy Reichert who is their current president. As part of that collaboration, the SIVB was presented the opportunity to host the first public presentation of a major CAST Issues Paper “Genome Editing in Agriculture: Methods, Applications and Governance.” This paper was prepared by a team of leading scientists from academia and government headed by Dr. Adam J. Bogdanove of Cornell University. His presentation at our meeting was the first of what would be a series of presentations to government agencies and other interested parties. Given the expertise in the SIVB, this was certainly an appropriate venue.
As a scientific society, it is both an opportunity and probably an obligation to address public issues that fall within our areas of scientific expertise. The Public Policy Committee, chaired by Wayne Parrott, is charged with overseeing this activity for the society but that does not preclude initiatives from any member. An example of a position statement is found on our web site (SIVB Position Statement on Crop Engineering). We have also responded to proposals for federal rule making (Comments on Proposed Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard). In this case, the response was prepared by the committee and was submitted over the president’s signature, as is traditional. Just to be clear, there is no executive fiat here. The Board of Directors, which has legal responsibility for the society, must approve any such action. I would encourage all members to consider how we as a society can contribute to constructive discourse on the positive role of science in society, wherever you live.
Finally, I’d like to thank those who have volunteered to help with the numerous committees we have and on behalf of our membership we thank Marietta Saunders and Michele Schultz (New Beginnings Management) whose experience and diligence benefit us every single day.
John W. Harbell, Ph.D.
President, Society for In Vitro Biology