A who’s who list of political, educational and industrial leaders from across the state has come together to help create a plan to grow North Carolina’s biotechnology and agricultural industries.

Former Gov. Jim Hunt, a leading force for technology development over the past three decades, is co-chair of the committee. The 34 members gathered for their first meeting on Monday at the

Steven Burke, senior vice president for corporate affairs at the Biotech center, is also a co-chair of the AgBiotech Steering Committee.

The task assigned the group: “How can North Carolina in coming decades gain from thoughtful, appropriate, and wide application of biotechnology to our agricultural economy, future and landscape?”

A report is scheduled to be submitted to the General Assembly and other groups next spring.

Key questions to be explored, according to the Biotechnology Center:

  • “What is the future of agriculture in North Carolina – in particular for today’s farmers as well as for necessary new farmers?
  • “How do we ensure that biotechnology both strengthens and enriches North Carolina’s agricultural heritage, history and economy?
  • “What combination of vision, policies and resources is required for North Carolina’s long-term leadership and gain in agricultural biotechnology?”

Beverly Perdue, the governor-elect, addressed the group.

Just days after the election, Perdue hosted a meeting with biotechnology industry leaders. Several at that session lobbied her for increased state investment in life sciences.

A recent report sponsored by the Biotechnology Center noted that North Carolina has invested some $1.2 billion in biotech in recent years. The industry now employs more than 50,000 people statewide.

The state’s agriculture industry includes 48,000 farms and produced revenues of nearly $8.7 billion in 2007, according to the Department of Agriculture.

“You are combining two of North Carolina’s leading economic platforms – agriculture and biotechnology – and creating a brand new platform for economic growth,” Perdue told the steering committee, according to a statement issued by the Biotech Center.

The group will be expanded in coming weeks to more than 100 people and will meet regularly, according to the Biotech Center.

Work groups will be assigned to six areas:

  • crops, trees and biomass
  • farming and rural advantage
  • animals
  • aquaculture and marine
  • niche, specialty and value added crops
  • issues, policies and implications

“Applying biotechnology appropriately, carefully, and realistically to our landscape can yield jobs in all 100 counties,” Hunt said.

Members of the committee are:

  • Sen. Charles W. Albertson, D-Duplin
  • Warwick Arden, DVM, Ph.D., dean, North Carolina State University, College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Daniel G. Baden, Ph.D., director, Center for Marine Science
  • George Briggs, executive director, The North Carolina Arboretum
  • Robert D. Brown, Ph.D., dean, College of Natural Resources, North Carolina State University
  • William B. Buckner, president & CEO, Bayer CropScience
  • W. Steven Burke, senior vice president, corporate affairs, North Carolina Biotechnology Center
  • Mary-Dell Chilton, Ph.D., founder and distinguished scientist, Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc.
  • M. Terry Coffey, Ph.D., president, Murphy-Brown East
    John Cooper, state director, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Adam Costanza, president, Institute of Forest Biotechnology
  • Rep. James W. Crawford Jr., D-Granville
  • Dan J. Gerlach, president, Golden LEAF Inc.
  • Billy Ray Hall, president, North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, Inc.
  • Charles Hall, CEO, North Carolina Soybean Producers Association
  • James B. Hunt, Jr., attorney, Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, PLLC
  • Mike Koziel, Ph.D., pPresident & CEO, Athenix
    Joe Landino, president, Joe Landino Farms
  • Steven Leath, Ph.D, vice president for research, University of North Carolina
  • Donald McDowell, Ph.D., interim dean, School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, North Carolina A&T State University
  • Cheryl S. McMurry, director, Western Office, North Carolina Biotechnology Center
  • Greg McNevin, Ph.D., senior business development manager, BASF Plant Science, LLC
  • David Peele, Ph.D., president, Avoca, Inc.
  • Milton Prince, president & CEO, Coastal Carolina Gin, LLC
  • Lynne Scott Safrit, president, Castle & Cooke, Inc.
  • Mikki Sager, Resourceful Communities program director, The Conservation Fund
  • Robert W. Slocum, executive vice president, North Carolina Forestry Association
  • Samuel M. Taylor, president, North Carolina Biosciences Organization
  • E. Norris Tolson, president & CEO, North Carolina Biotechnology Center
  • Steve W. Troxler, commissioner, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • William Upchurch, executive director, Tobacco Trust Fund Commission
  • Eric R. Ward, Ph.D., CEO, CropSolution, Inc.
  • Larry B. Wooten, president, North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, Inc.
  • Johnny C. Wynne, Ph.D., dean and executive director for Agricultural Programs, North Carolina State University