This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage.
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page
Conference helps educators share knowledge of biotech
By David Pesci
April 25, 1997
The annual New England Biotechnology Conference has been a place where current scientific studies and data have been presented and discussed, and this year's seventh annual conference, held April 16-17 at the Bishop Center, was no different.
It drew more than 140 participants from across the United States and Canada and offered such presentations as "Novel Vaccines for Animal Disease Based on Replicating `Non-Infectious' Genomes" and "Recent Advances in Pig Transgenesis and Biomedical Applications."
But there was an important new component added to this year's conference: practical applications for consumers.
"This year we had concurrent sessions for cooperative extension educators to help them better answer the questions they have been getting from the public regarding biotechnology," said Steven A. Zinn, associate professor of animal science.
Zinn created the conference seven years ago and has been its organizer ever since. It is sponsored by the Department of Animal Science and produced in cooperation with the Center for Professional Development.
Each year, Zinn has attempted to bring in distinguished speakers to address some of the hottest topics in biotechnology. The presentations often have been quite lively in the past because differing viewpoints would be discussed by speakers who were presenting one after another, or even face-to- face.
"This is a university, and I have always believed in that kind of free and open exchange," Zinn said.
His decision to offer specific sessions to cooperative extension educators this year addresses one of the occasional casualties of such open discourse: the truth. Incomplete information - or in many cases, misinformation - about recent developments in biotechnology often is passed on to the public through one media outlet or another. The public often then turns to cooperative extension educators with the same questions.
"These educators are scientifically very competent, but many are not up to speed on biotech issues," Zinn said. "What we wanted to do was introduce them to some important topics and provide them with resources they could access to answer their own questions, as well as the questions they get over the phone each day."
Featured speakers came from the University of Wisconsin, the University of California at Berkeley, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and UConn. Presentations included: "Taking Biotechnology to the Community," "Getting a Biotechnology Product to Market: Understanding What It Takes," and "The Future of Biotechnology: Communicating the Message."
Participants also were welcome to attend the conference's more scientific presentations and the poster session.
"I think by having the concurrent sessions, we've started something new that will become very popular with cooperative extension educators," Zinn said. "I think this addressed an important need. That is, to get more accurate information about biotechnology to the public."