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NABC will be closing its doors in 2017. We will host a session in honor of NABC and Ralph W. F. Hardy at the 2017 ABIC meeting in Manitoba.

You can continue to access all NABC publications electronically on the Publications page, but we can no longer supply hard copies or CDs.

 

 

Ralph W. F.  Hardy, plant molecular biologist during GMO foods debate, died Aug. 2, 2016

Ralph W.F. Hardy, a biochemist who called for better biotechnology research and scientific transparency as the controversy over genetically modified foods consumed and confused the public, died Aug. 2, 2013, at the age of 82.

Hardy was the founding president of the North American Agricultural Biotechnology Council (NABC), the 20-member consortium of American and Canadian research universities and government agencies, dedicated since 1988 to public engagement on the issues surrounding agricultural biotechnology.  He was also president and CEO of the Cornell University-based Boyce Thompson Institute, 1986-95, and research biochemist at E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, 1963-84, where he engineered the Delaware chemical giant’s diversification to life-sciences technology.

As a spokesman for university-based biotechnology research, Hardy never missed an opportunity to testify to Senate and House committees, and to cultivate public understanding of agricultural biotechnology through the news media.

In a join statement announcing Hardy’s death, after a brief hospitalization, NABC co-chairs Michael Kahn (Washington State University) and Karen Wittenberg (University of Manitoba) said he “firmly believed that public policy must be based on the best science, and he always encouraged dialogue that included diverse points of view.”  (Annual conferences and publications of the NABC became a forum for critics of genetically modified foods, like Ralph Nader, as well as research scientists and policy makers.)

Hardy put it another way, in a 2015 retrospective of his life in the laboratory and in the public eye: “The media has a huge appetite for biotechnology stories,” he said, and so do legislators. “Nowadays scientists need more than ever to devote time to non-laboratory functions. Guidance and vision to help society understand the realistic benefits and risks of their activities —without jargon— is a necessity.”

Ralph W. F. Hardy was born July 27, 1934, in Lindsay, Ontario.  Before studying at University of Toronto and University of Wisconsin-Madison (M.S. 1958, Ph.D. 1959) he enjoyed a brief career as a free-range chicken farmer.

Or maybe not: “In my late high school and early undergraduate years, I established a successful entrepreneurial business, raising free-range capons for the premium kosher and tourist markets,” Hardy recalled in 2015. “I considered scaling this business up but biochemistry was more attractive.”

As a corporate biochemist, Hardy was a pioneer in nitrogen fixation research, and was noted for developing the so-called acetylene reduction assay for nitrogenase activity in crop plants. Under Hardy’s leadership, the biotechnology council issued reports on topics ranging from labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients and management practices for field trials of bioengineered plants, to “Ethics and Patenting of Transgenic Organisms” and “Agriculture and the Changing Climate.”

Before joining the research staff at DuPont, Hardy was on the faculty of the University of Guelph, Ontario, (1960-63), where he received an honorary doctor of science degree in 1997.  He was president of Bio Technica International, Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., 1984-86.

At Boyce Thompson Institute, where a remembrance is planned, President and CEO David Stern said Hardy “was dynamic and visionary, especially in the area of biotechnology, and he firmly believed that public policy must be based on the best science. He he always encouraged dialogue that included diverse points of view.” 

 

 

 


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