During the last CIOPORA AGM celebrated in Alexandria, our members elected a new board and Wendy Cashmore, as the President of our association. This way, Wendy becomes the first woman, the first fruit representative and the first inhabitant from the southern hemisphere to hold the position of President of the largest breeders’ association of asexually reproduced plants. Read this article in which Wendy unveils some of the lines of work she has in mind for CIOPORA.
1.- Over the last decade, CIOPORA has grown significantly in terms of the number of members and influence in various offices and countries. This growth process and numerous changes in the plant breeding industry present new challenges for our association. How do you envision the future of CIOPORA? What do you think will be the main challenges we will need to overcome?
I’m positive about the continued progress CIOPORA can bring, reflecting the importance of innovation and plant improvement, and how this can make a difference for society at local, regional, and global levels. We’re strong in advocacy, influencing, and developing relationships that help everyone move forward. However, it’s true that our world is not standing still, there are pressures for change from multiple angles – climate change, the move away from familiar global trade models, economic and geo-political tensions.
It would be easy to see these only as problems. However, it’s my sense that they’re also opportunities. Plant breeding, the resulting IP, and the way those innovations are put into action - which themselves can be innovative – can all lead to positive solutions and positive change. On this basis, I see CIOPORA continuing to embrace new horticultural crops, just as we’ve done with cannabis, and to continue to advance protection for plant breeding innovation to ensure sustaining incentive for investment. I foresee increased focus on the Asia/Pacific Rim, across the content of Africa, as well as upholding interactions across the Americas, and Europe. The uneven pace of change across such broad regions, the adoption of new technologies for breeding but also for commerce and trade are challenges, and strategically that means the future for CIOPORA is likely to involve a broader set of themes than the specific IP focus that has carried us so far.
2.- This 2023 AGM was the first one you experienced as President, having the opportunity to share with many members and industry leaders. What is your vision of AGMs and their role within our association? What themes or concerns were most mentioned by attendees? Was there any particular theme that caught your attention?
To me the AGM is the most important week in the CIOPORA calendar. I really like how the event has evolved with such a signature style, and that there’s a whole-hearted purpose to bring people together to share knowledge, raise the overall access to information and understanding, concepts and ideas.
I always appreciate how willing our speakers are to share real experience – even when that could perhaps best be described as a “learning experience”. We must also acknowledge the high calibre of the speakers we’re able to attract – and, I think that speaks also to the quality of the audience. Our audience is engaged, they’re there to learn – and, that combination of quality of presentation and audience engagement results in a very rich experience for attendees. I’m ambitious that we keep that momentum, and that the CIOPORA AGM week continues to be valued as the premier event each year.
Our plant breeding and variety IP world is a complex business. One theme I heard mentioned many times was the challenge of achieving an appropriate risk/reward balance when putting together the investment plan for an IP protection portfolio.
This is multi-faceted, from the simple question of is plant IP protection even available in the country where I’d like to bring a plant variety innovation to market? To, what’s the likely product life cycle of the new variety? To borrow a quote from one of our presenters that summed it up so well “it’s complicated, and, it depends”. On the upside, this gives us a lot of scope to create best practice, to bridge the unreasonable gaps in legislation, and to overcome the barriers that potentially hold back innovation from being reasonably available to society.
3.- You have been a member of CIOPORA since 2011 and have witnessed the impact of various boards and presidencies on our association. What legacy would you like to leave as the new CIOPORA President?
I feel very strongly that CIOPORA is really having a good moment in time – a great community, focussed on the right things. I’m optimistic we can carry that momentum and that we can also continue to build on some new directions. Positive challenges to be facing.
However, it’s also true that nothing stays exactly the same. So, while I am fully committed to the CIOPORA of today I have a strong sense of looking forward - to ensure succession, for a strong, thriving, and successful CIOPORA also in the future.
Continuing to grow our membership as the facts of merger and acquisition change the shape of breeding companies, and new crops and sectors gain prominence. Looking at our organizational capacity, and ensuring we have depth and succession around that. Considering our alliances and collaborations, and gaining longevity by broadening and deepening those where appropriate. Building strategic direction through energetic board leadership.
Overall, it’s my goal that CIOPORA continues to deliver value for its members, and through that for people everywhere – and, that CIOPORA retains the welcoming sense of community and family that make it the leading organisation representing horticultural plant breeders and IP experts internationally.