VIEW FROM THE TOP
DUPONT AND PIONEER: ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF PERFORMANCE TRAITS FOR ITS CUSTOMERS
Editor's Note: Harold F. Thorne is director of global sales and marketing for DuPont Crop Protection. Thorne formerly headed operations in Asia-Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East for Pioneer Hi-Bred International, which merged with DuPont on Oct. 1, 1999.
DuPont Crop Protection's strategies are to develop and commercialize new products, build and demonstrate the value of existing products, leverage enhanced grower relations, capitalize on cross-business unit growth opportunities and capture value from generics.
AM: You are a few months into the merger with Pioneer. What synergies are you seeing?
HT: Pioneer develops, produces, supports, and sells outstanding seed genetics. DuPont Crop Protection offers the same range of services and tools for chemicals. We will continue to explore ways to help customers see how Pioneer and Crop Protection fit together on farms so that we all can derive additional value from the merging of the respective Crop Protection and Pioneer strengths, talents, and skill sets.
Agriculture is under extreme pressure today and the industry is looking for leadership in how to develop acceptable returns on growers' investments. Less than three months after the merger, we have put together programs such as "Deferred Pay" and "True Choice" that have been well received by growers, helping them purchase and finance seed and chemicals very competitively.
AM: As a global company in the crop protection industry, what role can DuPont play to promote biotechnology and affect public opinion about its safe use?
HT: We have set up an external advisory board on GMO's and initiated discussions with major food companies to "keep the door open" for the technology near term and build consumer confidence in the long term. We are doing the following:
* Meeting with key state and federal officials and influencers as well as participating in U.S. government hearings;
* Working with an industry coalition to conduct a public outreach and information campaign;
* Engaging in active dialogue with non-government organizations and activists; and
* Working with academia and the science community to develop plans to address ethical and moral issues.
At the end of the day, we see biotechnology as a critical enabling technology that is very broad and offers many platforms for building a sustainable future world. From our standpoint, we hope to bring breadth, flexibility and an obsession for safety to this emerging technology. We are prepared to take visible and concrete actions. And we are willing to be held accountable.
AM: There's a lot of discussion these days regarding E-commerce. Will this affect your distribution?
HT: The Internet is promising, or threatening, to change how commerce is done and how inputs on the farm are purchased. How it will play out is far from clear. However, we can expect that on-line purchasing will become commonplace in agriculture and will drive efficiency and transparency in our business.
We plan to maintain in-place current distribution channels for those who feel more comfortable with the traditional approach. Our objective is to give consumers throughout the value chain the services and technology they want and need. We are working with current channel members to learn how best to make the e-commerce phenomenon work for us in reducing costs in the present system and increasing efficiency.
AM: DuPont has spent a lot of time recently promoting and marketing its vision of delivering high-value products to the feed, food, and bio-based materials markets. How do you measure the success of this message to your customers?
HT: Within the agriculture and nutrition business units, our mission is to best satisfy the world's need for food, nutrition, and novel materials by transforming, through the miracles of science, the ways people grow, process, and distribute renewable resources. We want to meet the dynamic needs of consumers to lead active, healthy lives and of growers looking for novel approaches to manage their land and resources.
We are doing research in the area of bio-based materials that use renewable resources as feedstocks and produce waste that is less toxic. For instance, we are studying the potential use of "green plants" as manufacturing plants to make useful chemicals. We may one day be able to create a bio-silk that grows in plants. And, we are also looking for the genes that control the synthesis of natural rubber that would enable us to use plants commonly grown in this country as a source of that material. AM