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Illinois to host 2017 plant sciences symposium

URBANA, IL – Top scientists and students will come together on Sept. 29 to highlight innovative technologies that are improving agriculture and helping feed the world. The occasion marks the second time the DuPont-Pioneer Plant Sciences Symposium has been held in the ACES Library at the University of Illinois.   

This year’s theme, “Concept to consumer: How innovation navigates policy and public opinion,” was chosen by the event’s graduate student organizers. “There are so many different emerging technologies in agriculture now, but many of them are being met with fear and hesitation. We wanted to look at what goes into those technologies,” says Julian Cooper, graduate student in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I, and one of the event’s organizers.

The symposium will feature five speakers, including Carl Bernacchi from the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I, Maria Fedorova from DuPont-Pioneer, Mitchell Tuinstra from Purdue University, Vicki Vance from the University of South Carolina, and Steven Thomson from USDA-NIFA. Students Chris Montes from U of I and Austin Dobbels from the University of Minnesota will also present.  

Speakers will cover a wide variety of topics, including remote sensing and climate change, gene editing using CRISPR-Cas technology, mutation breeding, and insertion of miRNA into plants to create edible medicines. “Also, Steven Thomson will talk about policies that relate to these and other novel agricultural technologies, and what it takes for them to be accepted by industry, consumers, and the public,” Cooper says.

A poster session and keynote roundtable discussion will cap off the event. “The audience will be invited to pitch questions about ag technologies so these experts in the field can give their input,” Cooper says.

“It will be an exciting opportunity to learn about the interface of science, policy, and public opinion for innovation in food and agriculture,” says Germán Bollero, department head for crop sciences.

The symposium is free to attend, and a light breakfast and lunch will be provided. Participants are encouraged to register in advance. To register and learn more about the symposium, visit