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As part of the January 2000 celebration of National Biotechnology Month, Novartis Seeds developed a consumer education presentation. Titled "A Short Course On Biotechnology," the kit explains the science, safety and benefits of biotechnology.

The company is encouraging all members of the agricultural industry to use this program to discuss the merits of biotechnology through presentations at local civic and service organizations.

"The purpose is to impart knowledge about biotechnology," says Tony Minnichsoffer, Novartis Seeds communications manager. "It covers how genetics work, classical breeding and how biotechnology fits with that. It portrays biotechnology in a basic and informative way."

"A Short Course on Biotechnology" uses specific examples and consumer-friendly language. Consumer benefits from today's technology are emphasized throughout the 20-minute presentation.

The presentation guide is available on CD-ROM and comes with a suggested script, a computerized PowerPoint slide show and a self-running presentation complete with professionally recorded audio soundtrack.

The first distribution of these materials will go to Novartis Seeds' sales force and dealer structure. Then, Novartis Seeds will send the kit to anyone in agribusiness who is interested in presenting and helping to inform consumers. These presenters can take ownership because the presentation carries no company logos or identification. In fact, Minnichsoffer says Novartis intends to make sure direct competitors have an opportunity to take advantage of the kit.

As he sees it, now is the time to act as a united industry. "Between those of us in ag who understand the technology and those that vehemently reject it with a lack of understanding are people who think biotech is a good idea. But they don't know much about it and can be easily swayed to being scared of the technology. There's a huge potential audience that could go either way."

This kit is available to all people who want to help educate consumers. For a copy of the kit, e-mail Tony Minnichsoffer at


Sarah Vacek is a free-lance writer based in Copperas Cove, Texas.

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