Sano Shimoda peers into the big picture for agriculture and sees huge potential: a new age of innovation, an era of exciting new markets, and a new world of growth and value creation, created by the merging of breakthroughs and advancements in science and technology.

Shimoda is president of BioScience Securities, Inc. a California-based brokerage, institutional research and investment banking firm that focuses on agricultural biotechnology. He shared his insights into agricultural trends at the recent wheat Industry Conference and Expo.

There are uncertainties about biotech in the near-term, but bright long-term opportunities, Shimoda said. The global controversy over genetically-modified organisms has created a market-induced moratorium on commercialization, but lead companies will continue to power ahead on technology advancement. He predicts that the industry faces two to three years of negative market forces, before market sentiment turns positive.

"At the end of the day, better understanding of the science and recognition of the economic and social value of products derived from biotech will ultimately validate the value of this technology and drive its adoption," said Shimoda.

"The ability to calm the controversy, before it creates serious long-term commercial impacts, will require all stakeholders to work together to build public trust and confidence in the technology."

The power of biotechnology applied to agriculture has the potential to move our economic and industrial base towards a carbohydrate or plant-based economy, he said. Specialized traits will create broader market opportunities that will eventually link a broad spectrum of non-conventional industrial-based sectors to agriculture.

Health (pharmaceuticals) food and nutrition, construction and building materials (chemicals, plastics, wood) and energy are some of the sectors where agriculture will see new product and business opportunities, Shimoda said.

These advancements will create new linkages between markets, industries, and companies that do not exist now. The changes will eventually redefine farmers' role in the agricultural production system. He said farmers will focus more on marketing, made-to-order production and increasing net value per acre.

Shimoda said biotech development of wheat has lagged partly due to the greater complexity of wheat breeding, genetic transformation difficulties, and a saved seed market where there are fewer incentives to develop seed. However, biotech development in agriculture has accelerated and is spreading across more crops, including rice, fruits, vegetables, and cereal grains, including wheat.

A broad number of wheat traits will be brought to market around 2005 and beyond:

Input traits-Such as herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, insect resistance.

Plant performance traits-Yield, kernel uniformity, weather tolerance, salinity.

Output or quality traits-Improved milling and baking properties, modified lipids to enhance energy content, modified starch, nutrition and flavor.

"The future of agriculture is going to be extraordinary in terms of creating value growth," Shimoda said. "But opportunities will be available only to those who meet the changing needs of the marketplace."

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