One of our SANETtista kin (who shall remain nameless because of
writing to me privately) wrote me with a query whose results I wanted
to share with all. Said kindred ran across a reference to a Donald
Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. Asked me what I knew. I
thought some of you might be interested.
If it ever has anything to do with food, ag, or the like, and is HQ'd
in St. Louis, my Monsanto flag goes up fast. From the Web site of
this organization, here's their mission:
The St. Louis-based Danforth Foundation has joined with the State of
Missouri and six partners in the midwestern United States to form the
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. The independent, not-for-profit
Danforth Center, located in St. Louis, Missouri, is designed to be
the centerpiece of an innovative initiative that will apply the most
modern scientific and business thinking to the age-old problem
of providing food, plant and forestry products to the people of the
world --- doing so in ways that can be sustained for generations to
Isn't it interesting and telling that feeding and housing and
clothing people is presented here as a "problem"--as opposed to, say,
an honor, a privilege, a calling, a path...?
The Danforth Center's Mission:
Increase understanding of basic plant biology
Apply new knowledge to help sustain productivity in
agriculture, forestry and allied fields
Facilitate the rapid development and commercialization of
promising technologies and products
Contribute to the education and training of graduate and
postdoctoral students, scientists and technicians from around the
The Danforth Center's founding partners are all recognized leaders in
the plant sciences and include: the Missouri Botanical Garden, Purdue
University, the University of Missouri-Columbia, the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Washington University in St. Louis, and
the St. Louis-based Monsanto Company.
In the link to "Partners" is this description of Monsanto:
Monsanto has transformed itself into a life sciences company that
applies biological principles to the sustainable production of
nutritional foods, medicines, and other plant-based products
important to the future of the world. Furthermore, no corporation in
the world has a stronger group of plant scientists than Monsanto.
Well. I'll sleep better tonight.
Sometimes these "centers" get formed because somebody has money and a
research agenda, with a commercial agenda as well, and the "center"
is the necessary aggregate of partnerships and PIs to carry that
forth. Some would call it a "front."
Here's what's intriguing to me:
Why would this group of players need a non-profit entity to further
their biotechnology research? Particularly since they're going for an
admittedly commercial goal. I thought non-profits were for, you know,
public interest type stuff.
Anyone care to speculate/discuss?
The querent also wondered whether I knew anything about Roger Beachy,
who is the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center's director.
Here's a few items:
--At the 1997 "Agricultural Biotechnology for a Better World"
conference at Asilomar, Beachy appeared on the program as Dr. Roger
Beachy, International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural
Biotechnology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California,
--He is (or was--the site is undated) the chair of the Scientific
Advisory Board of Xyris
And is blurbed up on their site thus:
Dr. Roger Beachy is the Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board at
Xyris. Dr. Beachy is Head of the Division of Plant Biology at The
Scripps Research Institute and was recently named Director of the
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. He is a Member of the National
Academy of Sciences. He is best known for his pioneering work in
plant biology and developing the first genetically engineered food
crop that is resistant to disease. Dr. Beachy's most recent research
interests involve developing disease resistance strategies in
transgenic crops. He holds a Ph.D. in plant pathology from Michigan
Xyris is a San Diego "global agricultural biotechnology company that
uses structural and functional genomics, bioinformatics, structural
biology, combinatorial chemistry, and robotic high-throughput
screening to discover new agricultural products for plants and
--For a photo of him, his haircut, and tie, and
some...interesting...stuff on how university principal investigators
(including him) think, see this 1997 piece, from /The Scientist/,
"Top P.I.'s Say That Their Presence In Labs Acts As Safeguard Against
--Here's a minor 1992 interview with him:
I include this mainly for the painfully self-conscious folksiness in
it--if there's anything as grotesque as wealthy and influential
members of the California UberTechnocracy trying to pass as Just
Plain Folks from the Midwest while they're making decisions that run
actual JPFs off their land and out of their communities, I don't know
what it is.
There's more--but this'll getcha started...and let me get to sleep at
a reasonable hour. :^D
Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
UW voice mail: 608-262-8018
Home office: 415-504-6474 (504-MISH)
Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
I prefer a rude vigor to a polished banality. --Utah Philips
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