BIGMAP Symposium Series

Jeff Wolt, Faculty, Agronomy Department


Iowa is likely the most concentrated region of genetically modified crop production in the world. If Iowa were a nation, it would rank fourth in the world in area devoted to genetically modified crops. The rapid adoption of GM crops has lead producers, researchers and the public-at-large to ask questions concerning the technology, it risks, and benefits. Issues of global market access and co-existence of GM crops with other agricultural enterprises in Iowa must be continually and openly discussed and debated in order that interested and affected parties are knowledgably informed. The Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP) at ISU was launched to address these issues.


The annual BIGMAP Symposium informs opinion-leaders in Iowa and the Midwest as to the current state of science and regulation as it relates to the risks and benefits of modern biotechnology with a special focus on GM crop production systems in the Upper Midwest.


The annual symposium is a 1-day event held in late- to mid-April in Ames. In 2007, the 4th annual symposium was split between a morning session with expert presentations regarding Current Perspectives on Regulation, Risk, and Benefit and an afternoon session focused on Global Information Needs. The invited speakers and expert panel represented well-known subject matter experts from throughout the world.

The attendance for this event typically ranges from 100 to 150 registered attendees representing the ISU community, regional media, the regulated community, regulators, and producers. Because of the timing of this symposium, attendance and attendees vary depending on the progress of spring field work and planting.

In addition to the symposium presentations and discussion, the content of the symposium is disseminated in briefing materials to media, information posted to the BIGMAP website, and follow-up inquires received by BIGMAP.


The degree and direction of impact from the BIGMAP Symposium varies from year-to-year on the basis of topics featured as well as the degree to which GM crop issues are in the headlines. The most consistent year-to-year impact is through education of the ISU community, since this has a ripple effect in teaching, research, and outreach activities across the state and nation.

Media interest remains good and generally the farm press is represented and coverage is generated throughout the region. For instance, aspects of the symposium have appeared in the Des Moines Register and the Omaha World Herald. In 2007, Dr. Alan McHughen, University of California Riverside, gave a symposium presentation on Agbiotech regulation, risk and benefits: Who represents the public interest? which lead to a segment featuring Dr. McHughen broadcast statewide on Iowa Public Radios The Exchange.

Perhaps the strongest impact of this Symposium Series is indirect through the ability to educate and influence opinion-leaders from outside of the Midwest who can impact the acceptance of Iowa agriculture products. The importance we as Iowans place on the responsible consideration and communication of the risks and benefits of GM crops is not lost on the many opinion-leaders who have been part of the BIGMAP Symposium series.

They carry a very positive message away from their involvement as evidenced in positive comments regarding this effort in other forums and in the increased degree to which BIGMAP affiliates are consulted regarding issues of importance to the acceptance of biotechnology.

100  Corn and Soybean Production and Protection

Page last updated: January 9, 2008
Page maintained by Linda Schultz,