Everyone from astronauts to zoologists may want to make plans now to attend the 12th annual meeting of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council (NABC) May 11 to 13 in Orlando, FL.

The main focus of the meeting will be issues related to biotechnology in the 21st Century economy.

Professionals or anyone involved in the health, energy, chemical, material or agricultural industries are encouraged to attend the meeting, said D.C. Coston, associate director, Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station.

"Oklahomans should attend the meeting to learn what a bio-based economy means for state communities, especially those in rural areas," Coston said.

"The focus on a bio-based economy is our beginning to understand that agriculture will be not just a source of food, feed and fiber, but also a major source of fuels, chemicals and materials in the future."

The bio-based economy is emerging as one of the most significant new opportunities for agriculture and society in more than 100 years, according to Coston and Darrell Nelson, NABC president.

"The understandings we have developed about biology in the last 50 years hold change for the economy and some wonderful blending of agriculture, human nutrition, human health and environmental improvement," Coston said.

Anyone interested in attending the meeting should contact the NABC electronically at www.cals.cornell.edu/extension/nabc or call 607-254-4856 for registration packets and information.

Meeting participants are invited to tour the exhibits at EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World, including the new Millennium exhibit, and enjoy a fireworks display the evening of May 12.

"The EPCOT Millennium exhibit, which focuses on bio-based products, is just one of several national activities in 1999 and 2000 which dealt with agriculture expanding into various bio-based enterprises," Nelson said.

Consumer activist Ralph Nader, recently named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th Century by Time Magazine, will be offering his perspective on the bio-based economy during a special keynote speech.

Participants also will have the opportunity to share ideas and information in workshops because many economic, environmental and societal issues have developed from the use of renewable plant and animal resources, Coston said.

"A bio-based economy offers us a chance to diversify our agriculture and provides agricultural producers with new opportunities. It gives existing industries a chance to develop new product lines and new industries a chance to grow," Coston said.

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