Are you a systems thinker?

Sustainable thinking for sustainable agricultural systems. 

This week, I was part of an organized symposium at the 10th International IPM Conference in Denver, Colorado. The session was organized by my friend and colleague, Amy LeMay, from Brock University in Canada. Our session brought together scientists and social scientists from public and private settings to explore and challenge traditional thought and processes by validating the role of human, social, and cultural dimensions of IPM and other sustainability-driven programs.

Sounds a bit ‘social sciency’, right? As you may have already guessed, I kind of love 🧡 it.

My contribution to our lively discussion was on the topic of “systems thinking”. Systems thinking is a way of viewing the world and to problem-solve around complex issues. It is a manner of thinking that is self-reflective with goals to improve upon what would be currently considered the “status quo”.

People who are systems thinkers…

  • have an ability to view a problem from different perspectives; to understand all the moving parts;
  • the capacity to problem solve while thinking long term;
  • an ability to be adaptive to change; to be responsive, flexible and willing to both recognize and push back on personal biases, and;
  • a willingness to try new things in new ways and with people who may think a whole lot differently than you do.

What does systems thinking mean for sustainable agriculture?

The research tells us that early adopters of on-farm sustainable practices are frequently considered systems thinkers. Example: farmers who adopt cover crops are more likely to be systems thinkers. The research also indicates that mid west farmers in the US are less likely to be systems thinkers. [Yep. Crossed out. Stay tuned for the story behind this]

How do we encourage systems thinking?

(and, as one might hypothesize, increase adoption of sustainable practices)?

Networks & partnerships! We all know that farming can be a socially isolating vocation. Farmers trust other farmers and farmers talk to other farmers. Community and close personal networks are really important spaces farmers convene for conversation and for sharing on-farm problems and solutions. Partnerships are key. Partnerships or networks that bring together diverse actors and organizations (public, private, NGO, others); those that are willing to honor and recognize the complex factors that define our agricultural system(s). The goal here is not only collectively identify and solve problems, but to learn and evolve as well.

Differentiated communication and engagement strategies! We also know that farmers and farming practices aren’t homogeneous. Many factors shape decisions and on farm adoption behaviors. Any kind of new technology or way of managing operations represents both risks and opportunities. It’s about change and change can be hard. Technologies and practices can’t be applied writ large. Practices will vary, region to region, jurisdiction to jurisdiction, soil type to soil type, and farmer to farmer. This means that differentiated communication strategies and messaging are important! This is less about trying to influence on-farm adoption and more about the message itself … AND the channel(s) and the messenger, too!

Build and sustain trust! Systems thinking becomes a way to understand the complexities of a given system and to proactively manage and be responsive to change. Cultivating trust and trusted relationships are an inherent part of the process. This isn’t just about “changing on farm behavior”. In fact, that is probably a wrong-headed way to approach this. Actually, if we really want to seek ways to optimize, encourage and support on-farm adoption of sustainable production practices like IPM, we would do well to see the ‘bigger picture’ too; Find ways to encourage systems thinking across the value chain – corporate actors, government agencies, NGOs, and universities. There is need for learning and action for all of us. Modeling systems thinking might be a great first step!

Check out my blog post on The Social Side of Sustainable Agriculture on the MidWest Row Crop Collaborative (MRCC) website.



Cabrera, D. and L. Cabrera (2015). Systems thinking made simple: new hope for solving wicked problems.

Church, S. P., et al. (2020). “The role of systems thinking in cover crop adoption: Implications for conservation communication.” Land Use Policy 94: 104508.

Palmberg, I., et al. (2017). “Systems thinking for understanding sustainability? Nordic student teachers’ views on the relationship between species identification, biodiversity and sustainable development.” Education Sciences 7(3): 72.

Stave, K. and M. Hopper (2007). “What constitutes systems thinking? A proposed taxonomy.” 25th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society, Citeseer.

From “Eh” to “ZZZZZ….” – and throughout the day – Ag is important!

This was published on the Calgary Stampede Blog and in Huffington Post Alberta.  Are you a teacher? I invite you to use this material in the classroom setting…engage your students in discussions on how important agriculture is to us – EVERY DAY and throughout the day!

– – – –

From the time you wake up and your feet hit that hardwood floor until you tuck yourself into those cotton sheets at night, agriculture is a constant in your everyday life. 

What did you have for breakfast this morning?  Eggs? Perhaps a couple pieces of toast?

Between the farmgate and your morning breakfast plate, a lot happens!  The agriculture value chain is always at work bringing food to your table every day.  Eggs are recognized for their outstanding nutritional qualities containing vitamins, iron and protein. Did you know that there are more than 1000 registered egg farms in Canada? On average, flocks are comprised of just over 19,000 chickens that each lay ~300 eggs per year!  From whole wheat to rye to whole grain products, there are a number of healthy bread options. Did you know that Canada is known the world over for its premium wheat varieties?  Wheat is grown throughout Canada but mostly in the Prairies – with Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan being the three major growing provinces. Canadian mills grind over 3.5 million tonnes of wheat, oats and barley every year and export these products to over 30 countries!

r-WHEAT-FIELD-large570 HUFF PO Canada

How did you get to and from work or school?

Whether you drove or used public transportation, biofuels likely provided the fuel that got you from point “A” to point “B”.  There are two forms of biofuels: ethanol and biodiesel.  Ethanol is produced from crops like corn, sorghum, potatoes, wheat, and sugar cane. When ethanol is combined with gasoline, it creates fuel burning efficiencies.  Biodiesel is specifically designed for diesel engines and is derived from natural oils like soybeans. Like ethanol, it is a renewable fuel. Both forms of biofuels have definite advantages over petroleum-based alternatives gasoline – they are way better for the environment!

Photo source: Great Lakes Biodiesel

Photo source: Great Lakes Biodiesel

What’s for Dinner?

Do you fancy a BBQ? Rib steak with a side of quinoa and maybe a fresh garden salad?  There are 80,000 beef cattle ranches currently operating in Canada. In 2009 alone, Canada produced over 3 million pounds of beef.  Canada is the 6th largest beef exporting country in the world and the average Canadian eats approximately 46 pounds of beef per year!  Quinoa is a relatively new crop for Canadian agriculture but several varieties have been adapted to grow on the prairies.  If you have never tried it, quinoa is a great alternative to rice or pasta and has a mild, slightly nutty taste to it.  An excellent source of protein and carbohydrates, both the seeds and the leaves of the Quinoa plant can be eaten. The leaves can even be cooked and served as a side dish, similar to beet greens.  Speaking of green, what about a nice, fresh salad with that BBQ?

Photo Source: Alberta Beef

Photo Source: Alberta Beef

Now that we know what’s ‘on’ the BBQ, let’s talk about what’s in it. Did you know that biomass pellets and briquettes are made from agricultural and forest harvesting residues and are used in BBQs?  And not only in BBQs, but in boilers and furnaces as well! This alternative energy source is cost effective and helps us all to reduce fossil fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Good-night… and Good Ag!

It’s been a long day… how about an evening snack of cereal or a cup of warm milk before you hit the (cotton) sheets?  As you cross that kitchen linoleum floor to the fridge to grab a carton of milk, take note that flax oil is used to manufacture this type of flooring.  It is also used to finish wood and is an important component of the paint that is on your walls.  Most people think that flax is just for use in cereal or as a nutritional supplement.  It’s so much more than that! Flax is used to make linen fabric and is currently being developed as insulation for buildings and as composites in car dashboards, too! Flax is such a flexible crop and Canada is a world leading producer and exporter of flax.

Finally, as that milk simmers on the stove, think about this. The typical dairy cow produces 30 litres of milk from two daily milkings! The dairy industry ranks third in the Canadian agricultural sector following grains and oilseeds, and red meats. Most (80+%) dairy farms are located in Ontario and Quebec and the average dairy operation has about 60 cows.  That means lots of wholesome dairy goodness  – including cheese, yogurt and cream – on your table every day!

Photo source: Rural Living Canada

Photo source: Rural Living Canada

From “Eh” to “Zzzzz….” – and throughout the day – Canadians use hundreds of things that are products of modern agriculture.  From food to fuels; from linoleum to lotions – agriculture plays an important role in our day-to-day lives.

Look around you… what things can you see that come from agriculture?

– – – –

Don’t miss Aggie Days April 13 and 14 at the BMO Centre, Stampede Park. Admission is FREE for everyone! And make sure you become a fan and follower of the Aggie Days Facebook and Twitter accounts for all the latest news!

Infecting through misinformation…a new kind of communication pathogen?

August 21, 2011

Yesterday morning, Michael Olson (host of Food Chain Radio) interviewed Dr. Don Huber.  If you are not familiar with who Dr.Huber is, I will give you a little background.

Dr. Don Huber is Professor Emeritus from Purdue University. He is (was) a soil pathologist by training and appears to have had a fairly unremarkable career affiliated with a remarkable department at a world reknowned university (a quick search of ISI Web of Knowledge this morning netted Dr. Don M. Huber only a couple of dozen peer-reviewed co-authored articles published between the 1960s and 2010 most, of which, had relatively low citation rates) [UPDATE: ISI WoK is probably not the best source for searching scientific publications, hence low numbers of reported pubs by Huber. A quick search of PubMed returned a larger number of articles]. Earlier this year, Dr. Huber scripted a letter to Secretary Vilsack warning him (and the USDA) of a pathogen that appeared to have profound implications for animal fertility and plant mortality. He linked this pathogen to a synthetic herbicide.

In theory, sounding this kind of alarm should be a good thing. However, Dr. Huber has absolutely NO peer-reviewed science backing his allegations of the connection between the so-called pathogen and synthetic herbicide. This is where the danger lies. I have followed this story for quite some time so I listened intently to Olson’s interview and Huber’s responses.

The most telling part of the interview was what Huber DIDN’T say.  When asked about who pays/backs him, he responded by reviewing his history of research (academic life at Purdue). When asked about the scientific processes that purportedly support his allegations, Huber reverts back to why he sent Vilsack the letter in the first place. He never responds to Olson’s questions directly. In fact, he subverts them. Also, there are no references to peer-reviewed research/science to support Huber’s claims. This link that Huber alleges exists between this ‘pathogen’ and synthetic herbicides is extremely weak and based primarily on conjecture.  Again, this is dangerous.

Why is this dangerous? Science is a process or method that has been established over the past few centuries. Science brings to bear with it certain key protocols.  One of these is the ‘peer review’ process that demands science be replicable and reviewed by a body of peers prior to publication. Peer-review is a ‘checks and balances’ system that is intended to bring good science and its ‘value-add’ to society in a responsible manner with accountability measures built in (search “peer review” on my blog). If these science-based protocols are ignored or poorly executed, then non-peer reviewed science – even “bad” science – can make it into mainstream spaces. Circulating unchecked, through the use of technology and social media tools, ‘bad’ science can become a social ‘pathogen’ in and of itself; infecting through misinformation.

In light of the Huber interview, I took it upon myself to do a bit more sleuthing. The thing that was nagging at me was: Who is behind Huber’s efforts here? I mean, there must be some kind of (other) agenda pushing him along? Right?

My investigation lead me to this. One potential backer is likely to be the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. They sport Huber’s cv on their site. This organization is closely aligned with the Weston A. Price Foundation and several other organizations that are “anti-GMO” in terms of their mandates/philosophies. Another key collaborator for Huber appears to be Jeffrey Smith (anti-GMO advocate, author of “Seeds of Deception” and part-time yogic-flyer). Huber’s allegations were formally endorsed and circulated by Jeffrey Smith as early as January this year, long before Huber’s letter ever made it into Vilsack’s hands (see: According to this aforementioned posting (and others), it would appear that Jeffrey and Don (Huber) are on a first name basis. In his blog post on the Institute for Responsible Technology, it appears that Smith also had access to Huber’s photos: This suggests that a very close relationship has and is being cultivated between Smith and Huber.

Here’s my two cents on all this.  Assuming that Huber is funded through an NGO or the like, I think that they should re-think him as their poster-boy.  Based upon what I heard in this morning’s interview, Huber lacks the PR saavy to carry out the ‘sell’ of bad science or ‘allegations without evidence’. Also, if a funding agent is trying to leverage reputational value out of Huber in his role/career as a scientist, they should re-think their strategy. One comment on the Food Chain Radio Show’s forum was:

“I’ve spoken with people in Huber’s previous department and they are really quite embarrassed about this individual. He does not provide data or anything you would normally use to validate claims. He hasn’t really worked in the lab for years. No one is quite sure of his agenda, but he has no credibility in scientific or ag circles.”

In closing, I think that Michael Olson handled the interview with Huber very well (I admit it, I was skeptical at first).  He obviously prepared ahead of time and asked good, relevant, relatively non-sensationalized questions. Adding to that, I think that the call-in speakers on the show brought to light the problems with the lack of ‘science’ or science-based protocols in this über-(dare I say “Huber”)mess. This, combined with Huber’s clear lack of charisma (J.Smith is way better at this (note: this is not an endorsement)) and his inability to communicate science in ‘lay’ terms (forget all the inaccuracies), will ensure that this ‘science-communication pathogen’ will not infect the public and its perceptions.


For more excellent ‘sleuthiness’ on the science of the whole ‘Huber’ deal, check out Anastasia Bodnar’s posting on the Biofortified site: “Extraordinary claims…require extraordinary evidence.”

Note: thanks to my colleagues for their input/insights on this entry.

Responses to Huber’s allegations:

– – –

POSTSCRIPT #1: September 10, 2011

Postscript to this… see blog entry on “cred” and Huber by S.D. Savage on his blog Applied Mythology (August 21, 2011 were he states:

“…because he [Huber] is saying that something terrible is happening that can be blamed on Monsanto and GMO technology, he has automatic credibility with certain constituencies….I wish I had a good term for this particular class of cred that comes from telling a particular audience what it wants to believe about some entity that it has elevated to an evil status of mythic proportions.  The best term I could find applies to the audience more than to the speaker: Credulous: ready to believe, especially on slight or uncertain evidence.”

POST SCRIPT #2: January 1, 2012

And yet another postscript… A study just came out in the December issue of the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health by Williams et a:

According to the authors, “the available literature shows no solid evidence linking glyphosate exposure to adverse developmental or reproductive effects at environmentally realistic exposure concentrations.”

Link to article:

Canadian Reality TV: a ‘storytelling’ avenue for ag, eh!

June 16, 2011

Misperceptions are pervasive around the agricultural industry and with agricultural practices.  We live in a world where the urban population is rapidly growing while that of the rural is dwindling.  As a society, we seem to be losing touch with our pioneering heritage and have become largely disconnected from our ‘rural roots’.  The advent of new agricultural technologies, including the introduction of genetically modified crop varieties, has created new opportunities for modern farming practice. However, these developments have also represented the rise of the agri-cynical ‘foodies’. The agriculture community now not only has to deal with the volatility of world trade markets and the weather, but also with the ‘urban armchair foodie-quarterback’ who often presumes a level of ag expertise and knowledge and often without ever even having set foot on a farm.

The pervasive question for ‘ag-vocates’ then becomes how do we reach this consumer? How do we change perceptions? I draw on a recent blog entry by Michele Payn-Knoper (Gate to Plate), a noted ag consultant in social media, where she poses this (related) question and challenges ag-vocates:

“…[W]hen was the last time you truly made an effort to relate on human terms instead of ag terms?”

How do we put a human face to agriculture? Well, there are great strides being made by many ranchers and producers. They are all doing their part to ‘tell the agriculture story’ by leveraging social media tools through blogging, Twittering and Facebook. Personally, through Twitter, I have had the pleasure of connecting with the likes of @katpinke @JeffFowle @ShaunHaney @KMRivard @cowartandmore @wifeofadairyman @4GFarms @JPlovesCotton @waynekblack @agridome – the list goes on and on… Needless to say, I have learned a great deal from these folks through the information they pass along via Twitter and other online tools such as YouTube, personal blogs and Facebook.

It is evident that online social media has become an important part of the storytelling process.  But what of television? I mean, what better way to put a human face to agriculture than through reality TV?

“Dust Up” is a new reality reality show and is touted as ‘one rowdy rural ride through the world of crop dusting’.  For almost a hundred years, Canadians have used aircraft as aids in the protection of field crops, orchards, and forests from damage caused by insects and pests, fungi, fire and even frost.  The first known aerial application of agricultural materials was by a Kiwi named John Chaytor. In 1906, Chaytor spread seed over a swamped valley floor in New Zealand, using – of all things – a hot air balloon.  Over the past several decades, things have evolved considerably in terms of aerial mechanics – from fixed-wing aircraft in the early part of the century to the use of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, post-WWII.

“Dust Up” premiered in early June on History Television and it just happens to be filmed on location in my hometown area of Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Canada (Go Bears!) This ag story revolves around three highly competitive aerial crop dusters, two – of which – are father and son (Bud and Brennan Jardine). In the air, these ‘aerial cowboys’ “…buzz inches above the fields – dodging trees and telephone wires – to deliver their payloads…” (Shaw Media Blog) while on the ground they entertain the “Dust Up” audience with family feuds, crisis management and survival strategies.  Shannon Jardine, daughter/sister and the show’s executive producer, appears to have hit the mark with this one – both in recognizing a ‘good story’ and in encouraging her family members to tell it in such a public way. This accomplished actor/producer has come a long way from the shy slip of a girl that I remember!

I have to compliment the “Dust Up” producers, publicists and principals.  They appear to have launched an excellent publicity campaign to promote the program and to raise its visibility. And they have effectively leveraged social media to accomplish this, connecting to viewers through Facebook, YouTube ( and Twitter (@DustUpTV). TV and social media are highly complementary in this case – you betcha

No matter where you farm in the world, ag-vocates all speak the same language – – – agriculture! Pesticides and fungicides play an important role in managing crops and in sustaining our food supply. The practice of aerial spraying represents a cost effective and timely way in which to protect our crops.  So, for a little drama in the sky and a whole lot on the ground – and relating ag on human terms – check out “Dust Up”! You won’t be disappointed!

“So far, the Spray Gods are on my side…” “Maverick” Brennan Jardine, Crop Duster.

“Dust Up” is produced by Paperny Films and Prairie Threat Entertainment in association with Shaw  Media and is televised Thursday evenings on History Television. Episodes of “Dust Up” can also be viewed online at:

Want to meet some more ag storytellers? Michele Payn-Knoper provides a list of farm/ranchs blogs, ag-vocates, and other ag references:  



Estey, Ralph H. (2004). “Canadian use of aircraft for plant protection.” Phytoprotection. 85 (1). Pps: 7 – 12.

Globe and Mail. (2011). “Five Shows worth Watching.” (2011). Thursday, June 9. Available online at:

McCoy, Heath. (2011). “The Hazardous World of Crop Dusting.” Star Phoenix. June 2. Available online at:

Payn-Knoper, Michele. (2011). “I eat. You farm. So what?” Michele Payn-Knoper’s Gate to Plate Blog. Available online at:

Shaw Media Blog. (2011). “New series Dust Up premieres on History Television in June.” Available online at:


Industrial Organization in Canada – new book that includes a chapter on ag clusters in Canada

February 4, 2011

Industrial Organization in Canada: Empirical Evidence and Policy Challenges

Edited by Zhiqi Chen and Marc Duhamel

“An innovative collection that looks at industrial policy in present-day Canada”

This new publication includes a chapter by Gaisford, Kerr, Phillips and Ryan on the economic performance of agricultural based clusters in Canada.

Excerpts from article:

“The central policy question is whether governments should go beyond a minimalist policy that removes obstacles to the formation of clusters and engage in more activist incubation or nurturing of clusters.  Clearly, policy should be designed to ensure that no regulatory, tax or competition policy barriers inhibit the development of clusters.  Beyond this, governments could simply allow market forces to determine the establishment of clusters.  Even the minimalist agenda is easier said than done. For example, our analysis of agricultural biotechnology clustering suggests challenges for the management of intellectual property.  Overly strict or lax management has the potential to sever the connections that can create inventions and innovations.”

“The mere existence of a cluster cannot be taken as evidence of success. A cluster may be well on the way to depleting its financial assets, while those involved may still believe, or at least act, as if the breakthrough that will make the cluster sustainable is near at hand.  The only true measure of success for clusters is evidence of the creation of a number of commercially viable goods or services based on the knowledge arising from the cluster’s activities.”

“Definitions of clusters vary widely depending upon the actors and institutions involved and the strategies that they employ. The national regulatory environment and intellectual property rights regime adds to the complexities of a given cluster. Also, it appears that normative factors such as trust, habits, and conventions may play a supportive role in localised learning and in the flow of codified and tacit knowledge. Thus, clusters are difficult to measure and analyse.”


Paper (0773537899) 9780773537897
Release date: 2011-03-01 
CA $39.95

Pre-order yours today at: 


A breath of fresh, logical air…”Does starvation loom? – No.”

January 14, 2011

I love Twitter!  Especially when my social network shares gems like this.

Author Matt Ridley has written several books on evolution, genetics and society (check out the list on Amazon at: Sorry, Matt.  I have to admit, I haven’t read any of your books… but my interest has been piqued and I have had added several of the tomes to my growing ‘to read’ list.  

Anyway, back to the ‘gem’… A link to Matt’s latest blog entry entitled “Feeding of the nine billion” ( was circulated through Twitter today (via #scio11).  This is a GREAT piece!  In it, this ‘Rational Optimist’ addresses/challenges (what I would call in some cases) the hype around the issues of food security and a growing population, food prices and world ag production.  :

Here are a few of my favourite @mattwridley illustrative quotes from Ridley’s blog entry (which, by the way, was also posted in The Times, January 14, 2011):


“…the rate of [population] growth is decelerating. World population is now growing at just over 1% a year, down from roughly 2% in the 1960s. The actual number of people added to the world population each year has been dropping for more than 20 years.”

“…the UN estimates that the population will most probably peak at 9.2 billion in about 2075 before starting a slow decline. Population quadrupled in the twentieth century; it will not even double in this.”


“…if you take inflation into account. Food prices are up in real terms since 2000, but they are still about 30% below the level in 1980 and 85% down since 1900. In terms of wages, the decline has been even steeper.”

“Despite a doubling of the population, global food production per head is 30% up on what it was in the 1950s…Besides, the current spike in food prices is caused by prosperity, not desperation.”


“Farm yields have been marching upwards for decades and will continue to do so. In the past sixty years, the total harvest of the big three crops that provide the bulk of our calories – maize, wheat and rice – has trebled, yet the acreage planted has hardly changed.”

“The more yields increase, the more land can be set aside from food production for reforestation and national parks. This is happening already. National parks are expanding steadily…”

“Don’t forget another factor. Carbon dioxide levels in the air are rising. CO2 is a raw material that plants use to make sugars, which is why many greenhouse owners pump CO2 over their crops to boost production. The results of more than 600 experiments with rice, wheat and soybeans exposed to the sort of carbon dioxide levels expected by 2050 (an extra 300 parts per million) all show remarkably consistent 30+% increases in yield.”

FINAL @mattwridley THOUGHT:

“For all these reasons food production will probably continue to rise faster than population in the decades ahead. There will still be price spikes caused by bad weather or foolish policies, and there will be challenges: policies that encourage innovation cannot be taken for granted. Yet so long as trade is free and innovation flourishes, by 2050 it is easily possible that we can feed nine billion people with more and better food from less land.”

And for all you humanitarian types out there, you are going to love this!  Ridley is giving roughly half of the advance royalty received from his book The Rational Optimist ( to three charities: Farm Africa, The International Policy Network and AgBioWorldFoundation.  These are agencies/organizations that are helping those in need, especially in Africa, to trade, farm and innovate.  

The Matt Ridley Equation:  Prolific, insightful writer + Charitable = Awesomesauce!  ;o) 


@IPHandbook goes ‘wiki-rogue’-check out Ryan/Phillips chapters on ag clusters

Precursor: A note on the value of personal networks

Anatole Krattiger is a self-defined “vege-quarian” and a firm believer in GM-organics.  We first met at an IP workshop that he led at Cornell in 2001 (an excellent opportunity for a wide-eyed, idealistic, burgeoning academic).  The following year, Anatole served as a Keynote at the ABIC conference held in Saskatoon. Anatole is a great scholar, passionate activist, kind man and a good friend… I regret that our connections have weakened over the past few years. But we both have busy lives. Anatole travels extensively and he is involved in many activities (editor-in-chief of Innovation Strategy Today and a member of the editorial boards of the International Journal of Biotechnology and the International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialization to name a few). One of Anatole’s many distractions was the compilation and editing of the Intellectual Property Management Handbook of Best  Practices. 


The IP Handbook (made possible with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Kauffman Foundationis a massive piece of work – two volumes and 2000+ pages with contributions from over 200 academics, practitioners and experts worldwide.  This IP Handbook is an editorial feat.  The editors invite – no, ENCOURAGE – you to access the book; use it, copy it, share it, to reproduce it freely! (one review of the  book can be found here  It was through my personal / professional connection with Anatole that I was given the opportunity to contribute to this massive work (details and shameless self-promotion below).

“Wiki-Rogue” (my term)

The Intellectual Property Management Handbook of Best  Practices website has gone “wiki-rogue” and now includes “User Comments” & Content Upload Features.  Other major expansions to the website have also been launched with a special new feature which will ensure the content is up-to-date, relevant and constantly expanded to include the latest developments.

  • For each topic or chapter, users and authors alike can include comments and upload additional resources related to each topic/chapter, including PDF files and weblinks.
  • This special feature should make the ipHandbook grow and become a lively and relevant place where recently developments and expanded content is readily available.

Other important features of the ipHandbook website include:

Now for some  shameless self-promotion

Another colleague and good friend of mine, Dr. Peter Phillips, and I collaborated on two Chapters in this IP ‘tome’ that revolve around the (nebulous, yet fascinating) notion of ‘clusters’ as tools for economic development, in particular those with an agriculture focus.  I pull a couple of key observations/excerpts from these two chapters:

The Role of Clusters in Driving Innovation

“…the increasing complexity and fragmentation of knowledge and IP rights in the biotechnology sector suggests there likely is no single center that can effectively develop new biotechnologies or applications. Networking and partnerships are going to be the order of the day.”

Building Research Clusters: Exploring Public Policy Options for Supporting Regional Innovation

“…while clusters are attractive economic development tools, they must be nurtured with an appreciation for their partial and incomplete nature. Fundamentally, they are part of a global innovation system, and cannot thrive if cut off from the lifeblood of the system—ideas, skilled labor, capital, and competing and collaborating companies and organizations.”

I would like to invite you to read and offer up comments and feedback to the Ryan/Phillips chpaters in Intellectual Property Management Handbook  of  Best  Practices (and other chapters as well). The iterative process of peer review, learning and the development of new ideas makes this type of feedback extremely valuable!

Ryan & Phillips. The Role of Clusters in Driving Innovation

Ryan & Phillips.  Building Research Clusters: Exploring Public Policy Options for Supporting Regional Innovation



Bill C-474 – Scientists reject market acceptance as GM approval factor

Bill C474

Scientists say “no” to Bill C474 while some seed and organics growers support it.  What are your thoughts?  

Dr. Peter Phillips’ (University of Saskatchewan) and Dr. Wilf Keller (Genome Prairie) warn MPs against support of such a bill.  Dr. Phillips’ kindly provided his notes from this presentation and they are attached. 

“…this proposed 42-word, well-intentioned and apparently simple and straightforward amendment is a veritable Trojan horse that would destabilize the vitally important Canadian agri-food innovation system. As an alternative, I strongly urge you to broaden the dialogue to consider how we might truly achieve the stated goals of this amendment—an efficient, effective and commercially viable research, development, regulatory commercialization system that delivers world-class agri-food products…” (Phillips)


Download this file

Download this file

Please check out previous ‘Kaleidoscope’ postings on Bill C474.

Media hype and organic agriculture: a study published in the British Food Journal

Download this file

According to Kansas State University’s Doug Powell, news accounts of organic agriculture and organic food are more likely to be positive than negative, and inaccurately claim that organic food is safer. Powell co-authored the study “Coverage of organic agriculture in North American newspapers: Media – linking food safety, the environment, human health and organic agriculture” recently published in the British Food Journal, along with colleagues Stacey Cahill and Katija Morley at the University of Guelph. Analysing the content of 618 newspaper articles over six years, they found 41.4% has a neutral tone toward organic agriculture and food, 36.9% had a positive tone, 15.5% were mixed, and 6.1% were negative. “Organic agriculture was often portrayed in the media as alternative to allegedly unsafe and environmentally damaging modern agriculture practices,” says Powell. 

Rayner offers some real talk on food production: Industrial farms are the future #farming #agnerds #ag #food #production

Big agriculture is the only option to stop the world going hungry

Food riots, such as those in Mozambique, could soon be seen here too unless we overhaul the way we produce food

 Jay Rayner, The Observer, Sept 12, 2010

 “If we are to survive the coming food security storm, we will have to embrace unashamedly industrial methods of farming. We need to abandon the mythologies around agriculture, which take the wholesome marketing of high-end food brands at face value – farmer in smock, ear of corn, happy pig – and recognise that farming really is an industry, much like car manufacturing or steel forging, one which always works better on a mass scale, but which can still be managed sustainably.