Occasional Paper #1: Background

The National Agricultural Biotechnology Council (NABC), established in 1988, is a consortium of 13* not-for-profit agricultural research and education institutions:

  • Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research
    Rutgers University
  • Cornell University
  • Texas A&M University
  • Iowa State University
    Tufts University
  • Michigan State University
    University of California, Davis
  • Ohio State University
    University of Georgia
  • Purdue University
  • University of Missouri, Columbia
  • University of Nebraska, Lincoln

NABC, through sponsorship of annual meetings, provides an open forum for exploring issues in biotechnology, an opportunity for persons with different interests and concerns to come together to speak, to listen, to learn and to participate in meaningful dialogue. The fourth annual meeting (NABC 4) was hosted by the Texas A&M University System in College Station, May 27-30, 1992, focusing on “Animal Biotechnology: Opportunities and Challenges”, and organized by John Shadduck, Associate Deputy Chancellor and Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine and Paul Thompson, Director, Center for Biotechnology Policy and Ethics.

An addition to this year’s meeting was an optional topic seminar, Ethics and Patenting of Transgenic Organisms, immediately following the annual meeting. There were approximately 50 attendees, more than 40 of whom had attended NABC 4. Participants included ethicists, lawyers, environmentalists, administrators, scientists, philosophers, sociologists, as well as representatives of agribusiness and animal welfare organizations.

The symposium was organized by the Center for Biotechnology Policy and Ethics (CBPE) with special funding from the Institute for Biosciences and Technology (IBT) at Texas A&M University. Gary E. Varner, a philosopher and research associate at CBPE organized this symposium. His introduction and overview provide a snapshot of an interesting and intellectually challenging symposium, especially for those of us who, as scientists, struggle to follow philosophical and legal arguments.

Several attendees expressed a desire to have copies of the papers so they could revisit the issues and more carefully contemplate the arguments. NABC, in its mission to promote understanding of issues associated with agricultural biotechnology, is pleased to start a new series of publications, “Occasional Papers,” the first of which includes papers from this highly successful symposium. The model of an annual meeting followed by an optional topic seminar will be followed again next year at NABC 5, Agricultural Biotechnology: A Public Conversation About Risk, hosted by Purdue University.

The NABC Occasional Papers series will be published on an irregular basis. NABC hopes this series of papers will contribute to an increased understanding of different viewpoints.

NABC extends very special thanks to Gary Varner for his organizational efforts, before and during the symposium, and his help collecting papers from authors when it was decided, during the symposium, that NABC would reproduce and distribute the papers. The cooperation of the authors and CBPE is also gratefully acknowledged.

— June Fessenden MacDonald, Deputy Director, NABC


* In 2001, NABC has 37 member institutions.