The Founding Fathers: Vittorio Santaniello, Robert Evenson and David Zilberman. In the very early days of biotechnology, the Food and Agriculture Organization organized in Rome a meeting on biotechnology as well as workshops on related issues of biodiversity and intellectual property rights. Vittorio Santaniello, Robert Evenson, David Zilberman, and others met then to discuss options for a regular forum for scientific exchange in the emerging field of biotechnology. Based on these discussions an international conference was held in Rome in 1998. Participants agreed to establish the International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research.
The 1999 ICABR conference was also held in Rome. Since 2000, the annual conference has been held in Ravello (with the exception of the 2011 conference in Rome and the 2014 conference in Nairobi). The Consortium”s annual conference was organized by Vittorio Santaniello—a strong supporter of agricultural biotechnologies. He was aware of and concerned about the social and political issues surrounding the technology. In debates with people concerned about the irreversible costs of the technology, Santaniello frequently emphasized the irreversible benefits that the technology provides. He was instrumental in encouraging wide dissemination of the conference results and worked closely with Robert Evenson and David Zilberman to publish a series of the conference papers as an edited book volume, published by CABI.
The first book in this series was published in 1998. Titles of each volume are listed below. From its early days the Consortium has provided a network of expertise and a base of knowledge on biotechnology. In addition to the book and special issues, the Consortium network has been involved in the organization of other workshops and seminars about biotechnology and the bio-economy in various countries, including:
- Conference on the Agricultural Biotechnology in Developing Countries: Towards Optimizing the Benefits for the Poor, Bonn, Germany, November 15-16, 1999.
- Conference on Intellectual Property Clearinghouse Mechanisms for Agriculture, Bancroft Hotel, Berkeley, California, February, 2001. Sponsored by the Farm Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, ICABR, and the Giannini Foundation. Environmental Costs and Benefits of Transgenic Crops in Europe: Frontis Workshop, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, June 1-4, 2003.
- Conference on the Economics of Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnologies, Arlington, Virginia, March 10-12, 2005. Sponsored by the Farm Foundation, University of Maryland.
With the death of Prof. Vittorio Santaniello in the summer of 2007, the Consortium lost one of its most enthusiastic supporters and contributors. However, a group of scholars decided to continue with the annual conference and rebuild the Consortium. The ICABR and the annual conference have become more formalized. The Consortium is in the process of becoming a legal entity. The name of the Consortium has also changed slightly to better reflect the changes of the past decade. The new name is the International Consortium for Applied Bioeconomy Research (ICABR). Since 2008, the ICABR conference has included the Santaniello Memorial Lecture. Renowned scholars discuss the contribution of agriculture biotechnology in improving social welfare.