Meet and tweet

Deb Brown, Chamber of Commerce executive director and Doug Getter, Webster City councilman, traveled to Des Moines Monday to attend the morning coffee “meet-up/tweet-up” with World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Robert T. Fraley.

The event was cohosted by Janice Person from Monsanto and the 140 Character Conference/State of Now organization.

“We wanted to kick off the World Food Prize week by bringing together Dr. Fraley with the social media community in Iowa. A coffee at Java Joes was the perfect idea,” said Person.

A small group of people attended and were treated to bacon, bagels, muffins and coffee and lots of good conversation. Fraley answered many questions and shared information about his path in life. Fraley grew up on a small farm in Illinois, and received his undergraduate education and graduate training in microbiology and biochemistry at the University of Illinois and in his post-doctoral research in biophysics at the University of California-San Francisco.

“It was a pleasure meeting Dr. Fraley again. He has proven to be an outstanding scientist and was a longtime friend of Dr. Norman Borlaug,” Getter said. “Dr. Fraley referenced Dr. Borlaug’s interest every time they got together and discussed plant genetics. The World Food Prize was established by Dr. Borlaug to address food production issues that need to be developing to feed an estimated 9.6 billion people by the year 2050.”

Hired by Monsanto in 1981 as a research specialist, Fraley led a plant molecular biology group that worked on developing better crops through genetic engineering-to give farmers real solutions to critical problems such as the pest and weed infestations that frequently destroyed crops.

In 1996, Fraley led the successful introduction of genetically engineered soybeans that were resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, commercially known as Roundup. When planting these “Roundup Ready” crops, a farmer was able to spray an entire field with glyphosate-and only the weeds would be eliminated, leaving the crop plants alive and thriving.

In leadership positions at Monsanto-currently as Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer-Fraley has played a key role in the company’s choice of research directions that led to viable finished products, and the technical and business strategy that ensured wide availability and benefit to farmers of all sizes around the world. He has especially championed making biotechnology accessible to small-holder farmers.

“I didn’t know that seedless grapes are a genetic modification as are orange cherry tomatoes. It was interesting to hear about the science behind GMO’s and the years and years of research,” said Brown. “There are also many government regulations from the United States and at least 20 other countries that must be met before a product can be introduced to the market.”