Presented by Dr. Roger L. McBroom
What started out to be duty, the preparation of this paper, turned into a pleasurable and interesting exercise. It is not often that one has an excuse to get lost in the history and look at the evolution and pathway taken by an organization as diverse as the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders. The Board minutes from the last 25 years turned out to be extremely interesting reading, in fact, sometimes I got so involved in the reading, I lost sight of the fact that my main goal was to finish this article. It gave me a great sense of pride and admiration for what this group has accomplished and made contributions to.
A very incomplete listing of projects the Council undertook or contributed to in a substantial way include:
In 1979, Dr. Harold Loden, prepared a paper on the history of the organization from its "stormy" start in 1954. In his paper he mentioned that the original objectives of the NCCPB were: A) "…. Continuing development of high standards of professional and business ethics; B) promote cooperation and mutual assistance with publicly supported research agencies; C) recognition of individual scientific contributions toward betterment of American Agriculture…". During the next 25 years these core values have been reworked and restated several times with revisions in the goals and by-laws of the organization in 1989 and again in 2001, but the underlying meaning and purpose has remained very much at the heart of the Council. These revisions in wordings and additional goals and purposes, while still retaining these core values, have allowed the Council to reach it's 50th anniversary as a strong organization.
With the passage of time, the issues and emphasis of the Council has changed and evolved to fit the changes in technologies and international climate that has and is shaping the world of plant breeding. The first mention of processes involving genetic engineering came in 1981. This same year, the Council opened up and welcomed membership from Canada and Mexico. This represented the start of a more international view of the world, and probably the start of the realization that what was happening around the world would impact what its members were trying to accomplish. The Board in place in 1981 also set up a separate committee to handle the large number of nominees for the NCCPB Plant Breeding Award. This revolving committee, still in place today, was able to handle the 45 nominations received in 1985, a very daunting task I would think. Major, long term support of "Diversity" magazine began in 1982 and only ended with the demise of this publication in the late 1990's. Discussion of the FAO Understanding on Plant Genetic Resources first appeared in the minutes in1985 and continues currently. This same year saw the development and start up of the Plant Breeding Award for Industry, with the first award being made in 1986 to Dr. William Brown.
Another sign of changing times in this organization's history came in 1987, when the Board, for the first time, added liability insurance for itself. The first mention of the concepts of minimum distance and essentially derived varieties also occurred in 1987. These concepts, still being discussed and refined today, are perfect examples of one of the strengths of the Council. These concepts are so complex and far-reaching in their implications, the Board had to be almost overwhelmed by the size of the task ahead of them. Instead of being intimidated, they broke the task down into more manageable parts, assigned committees by crop, and made sure the talents of the membership were being utilized to reach their goals.
The running discussions of biotechnology and its impact on plant breeding took a slightly different turn in 1993, when the focus of the discussion became the regulation of Biotech Products. It was also in 1993, that the Council was invited to send a guest representative to the Intellectual Property Group of ASSINSEL, the International Plant Breeders Association. ASSINSEL, founded in 1938, merged with the FIS (International Seed Trade Association, founded in 1924), to form the International Seed Federation (ISF) in May 2002. The NCCPB has become an official member of the International Seed Federation.
In keeping with its stated purpose "to promote plant breeding, plant genetic research, and related plant improvement disciplines as challenging and interesting careers to help ensure a continuing supply of trained plant scientists", the Board established a Graduate Student Award in 1995. The first recipient was M. Lynn Senior from North Carolina State University in 1997.
From the beginning of this twenty five history in 1979 until 1998, Robert Falasca served the Council as Secretary-Treasurer. His attention to detail and his gentle (or sometimes less gentle) prodding kept the ever-changing Board on track and provided a sense of continuity. The history of the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders would be woefully incomplete without mention of his name and recognition of his contributions through the years.
In keeping with its' tradition of adopting and utilizing new technologies, the NCCPB established its' first website presence in 1998. The current website, www.nccpb.org, was revised, reorganized and went live in November, 2004. As part of the preparation effort, the Board concluded it was time for an official logo and a Mission Statement. The Mission Statement is essentially an abbreviated restatement of purposes, but is important enough to the continued guidance and growth of our organization that I am taking the liberty of reproducing it here.
"The mission of the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders is to promote, technically and ethically, the interests of professional US plant breeders' world wide. This includes (1) the fostering of collaboration and cooperation among all plant breeding and improvement organizations, (2) the encouragement of public and private funding for plant breeding research and development, (3) the support and mentoring of plant breeding students, (4) the recognition of scientific achievement in public and private breeding by both students and professional plant breeders and (5) the support of effective systems of intellectual property protection world wide."
Current Agenda Topics for the Board include: the National Plant Disease Recovery System, UPOV Database Priorities, APHIS meeting follow-up, ASTA Intellectual Property Paper, and a report on the Intellectual Property Group of the International Seed Federation. As I look through the history and the current topics, I see an organization that is still very viable, still growing, still adapting, and still committed to doing all it can to improve the science and the art of plant breeding. I see the National Council of Plant Breeders as the organization best able to address and speak for commercial plant breeders when national or international issues develop, in the past, now, and into the future.