In January of 2015, Dr. Carpenter embarked on a lecture series, which began with a talk for The Lindley Lecture Series at Mississippi State University, with plans underway for an early March talk at the St. Louis Science Center. The Science Center event is co-sponsored by UMSL and Webster University, in conjunction with the Science Center. After a brief hiatus to recover from surgery to repair an injury incurred during his time in the Korean War, Dr. Carpenter will actively resume the lecture tour.
Dr. Carpenter is available to Land Grant Universities and Science related organizations to share some of the expertise he garnered while participating in his six decades-long active career in the world of science. As the head of the Monsanto team that brought Round-up and Lasso to market, and as the lead chemical industry representative to the negotiations that brought about the Chemical Weapons Treaty, he brings knowledge in multiple areas which are of interest to a number of universities and organizations.
Listed here are the topics and a brief summary of each. These summaries emphasize the experience and knowledge Dr. Carpenter brings to the table, and should provide the incentive to encourage suitable organizations to take advantage of this man’s unique expertise.
- The U.S. Chemical Industry’s Role in the Development of the Chemical Weapons Treaty
In 1978, The United Nation’s Committee on Disarmament began a major effort to obtain a worldwide chemical weapons treaty, and to create an organization which would be responsible for implementing the treaty. The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was the lead organization agency for The U.S. Government, with obvious participation by the State Department, the Defense Department, and others. Dr. Robert Mikulak in the ACDA, initiated a request to the Chemical Industry trade association, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, to provide a person who could be a resource and consultant to the various government organizations. That person was Will Carpenter. Will spent 25 years on the task, beginning in 1978 and ending in 2004, serving as the U.S. Representative to the treaty organization and as co-chair for the Advisory Board. He worked with a number of government organizations from the Department of Defense, to State Department, to the Department of Commerce. The U.S. chemical industry was strongly supportive of Will’s efforts and that of his committee. He then formed a coalition of the Australian, Canadian, Western European, Japanese, and U.S. industries that became a valuable resource to the individual countries, to NATO, and the UN. For those who participated in the effort, it is widely believed that without the major efforts on the part of industry, it is doubtful there would be a functional treaty. The story of the 25 year effort is an important and interesting one.
- The Future of U.S. Agriculture in the 21st Century
The future of U.S agriculture will be the sum of several trends which in a few cases, conflict with one another. The continued growth of large, science-based agriculture in corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum and cotton will result in higher yields, increased environmental protection, lower costs of production and higher quality products. Erosion will be the lowest per acre since about the 1930s, farmer safety will be at its highest, and crop quality will be the best ever.
Farming acreage will be more or less the same, but available water will become a major factor. Because the world population will continue to increase with little availability for expansion of crop land, yields per acre will also need to increase at an accelerating rate. There will continue to be a necessity and a challenge to bring African and Asian agriculture into the 21st Century to meet the need.
Organic farming will continue to have its supporters. Its growth will depend on the ability of consumers to pay the higher prices, the available manpower that it takes to sustain organic farming, and the proven safety of the crops.
An ever-growing task of those in agriculture will be to bring knowledge to the consumer. Ninety percent of the population is three generations removed from agriculture and does not how food gets on their table. Further, they have no way of determining misinformation from fact. It will increasingly be the responsibility of the agricultural community to educate in the exciting but ever changing world of food production.
- The Importance of Herbicides in Our World
Plants have been a major food source for mankind since the beginning of time, and the greatest use of farm labor in that same period has been in the removal of weeds from crops. That fact has impacted humanity in a number of significant ways.
For many years, the reason school sessions resumed in the fall and finalized in the spring was because children in farming communities were needed to eliminate weeds from crops. Substantial man-hours were used in the back-breaking work it took to control weeds. From rice crops in Asia, to the sugar beet fields in Germany, to the vineyards in France, weeds could cause a complete loss of crop yield and have a huge competitive impact.
Fortunately, science has developed chemicals and methods of applying them that kill weeds without damaging crops, with most of the progress in that development having been achieved in the last fifty years. As recently as the 1940s, it took two man-weeks of hard labor, working sixty to seventy hours per week to grow one acre of corn. Today, with conservation tillage and new scientific means of weed control, it takes as little as three man-hours from planting to harvest to grow that same corn. Further, we have gone from about forty bushels per acre to a national average of one hundred seventy bushels on the same amount of acreage.
For the last four decades, the world food supply has increased substantially and has become significantly more cost effective through the use of herbicides. Millions of people are no longer faced with a lifetime of backbreaking work and millions of children in rural areas in our country and abroad are free to attend school and receive a life sustaining education.
The challenge today is for scientists to continue to search for chemical combinations that can combat the inevitable weed resistance, and to continue to produce herbicides that are environmentally safe. This is a challenge that will likely never end, but is one that is constantly being explored in today’s world of agriculture, because as the world population continues to expand, the use of herbicides has become a necessary reality in the production of increasing food demands.
- Transition of Industry from Chemistry to Biotechnology
Industry and Academic research objectives have changed as the process of scientific knowledge has enabled them to pursue new goals. Biotechnology came into being because of wonderful advances in several areas of science: Biology, Analytics, Computers, and Chemistry. Genetic modification of plants is only the most recent technology which man has used to improve plants and crops for thousands of years. Corn, cotton, tomatoes, wheat, roses, grass, not even potted plants are close to their original form.
The key point is that we can now change a specific desired factor rather than many at the same time whose impact is not known. Today enhanced yield is achieved through science that improves drought resistance, cold tolerance, disease resistance, insect resistance, and the use of sunlight more efficiently. In addition to yield, plants can be made more nutritious, made to taste better, to store better, and to produce medicines, and other valuable products.
Currently scientific achievement is implemented with far better precision than the best possible techniques of only 40 years ago, and genetics has positively impacted the lives of tens of thousands of people. Diabetics now use human insulin rather than the pig and cattle insulin used 40 years ago at a much lower cost, and much greater safety. Young people who need human growth hormones are prescribed higher quality, safer, much less expensive treatments than that of 30 years ago. Modern science, which is a melding of several sciences, is having a significant positive impact on everything from our food supply, to forestry, to medicine, to manufacturing, to improved environmental practices, to safer toys.
Most importantly, the best is yet to come.
- Why a Career in Agriculture?
It is necessary for the 350 million world residents to consume some form of nourishment every day, regardless of any external conditions. Although eighty to ninety percent of our population is three generations removed from farming and does not have the vaguest idea how food gets to their supermarket, nutrition is essential to life, and thus is agriculture.
A variety of necessary components fill the spectrum from the beginning to the end of the food chain, and job opportunities abound. While the number of farmers continues to decline, agricultural industry employment continues to have a steady growth rate in every arena from electronics, to financial management, to animal management, to repair shops. In each of these areas, a strong knowledge of agriculture not only puts one ahead of the pack, but insures continued improvement and development of each element.
The whole arena is growing more complex by the month. The combination of agricultural experience and education on a resume represents the knowledge, the ability and the flexibility to move across many fields within the industry.