WAYNE ORTMAN

Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- South Dakota must overcome what university president James Abbott characterized as an inferiority complex if it's to produce college graduates who can grow a biotechnology industry that's already taken root.

Abbott and others speaking at the 4th South Dakota Biotechnology Summit said a strong academic foundation and support from government and industry are needed as well.

James Greenwood, president and chief executive officer of the Biotechnology Industry Organization of Washington, D.C., noted his field's unlimited potential in the use of biology to solve problems in encouraging South Dakota to develop itself as a research hub.

"The only limiting factors are the willingness to do it as a state and the ability to attract and retain the smartest people in the country ... and to continue to attract resources," he said.

The conference featured speakers and sessions on how biotechnology is used for health, food and energy.

Abbott, president of the University of South Dakota, said developing specialists who can expand the state's biotech industry requires resisting the compulsion to "dumb down education" and instead promoting tougher education standards and a solid math background.

Those changes will come through what he called "constant advocacy."

"The biggest problem seems to be the South Dakota attitude, which is if it's done someplace else and it was tough there it must be virtually impossible here," Abbott said. "And secondly, well, we probably cannot do what others do.

"I don't accept that. I don't think any of us do."

Greenwood said South Dakota already has significant biotech companies at work. He singled out a Sanford Health Care project to find a cure for type 1 diabetes as something that has "put South Dakota on the map."

Growth can continue in a state that provides seed money and incubator opportunities for small companies, he said.

"It's important that ... you continue to make sure that South Dakota children are excited about the life sciences and are well-educated in the life sciences," Greenwood said.

David Fischhoff, a vice president of technology for Monsanto Company, explained how Monsanto aims to increase crop yields by developing varieties that are insect-resistant or drought-tolerant. A growing world population, combined with increasing meat consumption, requires more grain.

"Demand is great," Fischhoff said, "and that really drives technology in agriculture."

Monsanto envisions a doubling of yields of corn, soybeans and cotton by 2030.

"Although we talk about this as Monsanto's commitment to sustainable yields, it really is a commitment that we're hoping many others -- in fact everyone involved in agriculture -- joins with us, because it can't be achieved by just Monsanto alone."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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