Bioscience Conference to focus on renewable energy, animal health

WORTHINGTON -- Renewable energy and animal health will be the two primary topics for the annual Bioscience Conference next week. The conference, hosted by Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp., will take place Thursday and Friday on the...

WORTHINGTON -- Renewable energy and animal health will be the two primary topics for the annual Bioscience Conference next week.

The conference, hosted by Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp., will take place Thursday and Friday on the Worthington Campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College. The events begin with introductions at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, with breakout sessions set to start at 1 p.m.

"This year's format will be a little different," WREDC Manager Glenn Thuringer said. "We're going to be running a dual track. ... At 1 o' clock there will be a session on renewable energy and wind, and at the same time there will be a session on animal health."

There will be three separate sections on animal health over the course of the afternoon. All three will address the impact of antibiotics on livestock production, with five speakers to be featured.

Dr. Peter Davies, of the University of Minnesota's Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, is one speaker.


"He's the Leman Chair of Swine Medicine, and he's got worldwide expertise in swine diseases," said Randy Simonson, chief operating officer at Worthington's Newport Laboratories, who Thuringer credits with taking a leading role in organizing the animal health portion of the conference.

Satish Gupta, a soil, water and climate professor who also teaches at the University of Minnesota, will discuss topics pertaining to antibiotics, Thuringer said.

"He was part of a group that published two different papers on the uptake of antibiotics, meaning that manure from livestock that have been fed food that contains antibiotics, or if they've been treated with antibiotics ... when the vegetation is spread on the land, are there significant traces of antibiotics in the land where it could impact organic farming," Thuringer explained. "I think the studies are still new enough that a real conclusion has not been reached, but in the little bit I've visited with Mr. Gupta, his research seems to be very interesting."

In the second animal health breakout session, there will be two private industry individuals speaking. Dr. Paul Ruen of the Fairmont Veterinary Clinic, who is also a representative of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, will be one speaker; another will be Daniel Nelson, manager of technical services in the swine division at Alpharma Animal Health.

"Alpharma manufactures antibiotics and it will be interesting to see how their practices of the last few years have adjusted to this new antibiotics awareness," Thuringer said.

The remaining animal health speaker will be Dennis Johnson of the University of Minnesota-Morris, who manages a dairy herd through the college.

"They have the dairy herd split into two sectors," Thuringer detailed. "One side of it, they're going to make it a 100 percent organic dairy herd, and he'll be able to talk about the different uses and impacts of antibiotics. We don't have to exactly understand what an antibiotic is, but when we go to the grocery store and see a label of organic -- what does that mean exactly -- that gets to be an impact."

"There are many issues going on in livestock production with regard to environmental issues, with regard to husbandry, to the use in this particular case of antibiotics," Simonson said. "In fact, there's a pending bill by Sen. Ted Kennedy to restrict the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, and there's a bill pending in California to do likewise.


"The issues surrounding the use of antibiotics ... range from the importance of having them to promote efficient growth and health to concerns over antibiotic resistance in human drugs," Simonson continued. "You've got a spectrum of concerns there. The thing that's excited me about this conference is that we're bringing different perspectives to one meeting and asking the presenters to use their data to explain their given situations. The hope that I have coming out of this conference is that we're going to have these different viewpoints offered at one conference where this can be discussed in hopefully an open and objective manner. This is a chance for this conference to present a contemporary topic and important topic, and do it in a way that keeps the subjective emotion out of it."

All three animal health sessions will be moderated by Steve Dudley, a veterinarian at the Vet Medical Center in Worthington. Each speaker is scheduled for one hour and 15 minutes, and all five presenters will be part of a question-and-answer and discussion period that Thuringer believes will be a conference highlight.

With regard to the renewable energy portion of the conference, there will be sessions on three different sectors -- wind energy, biofuels and biomass feed stocks.

Dan Juhl, who owns Juhl Wind Inc. in Woodstock, and Jim Nichols of Lake Benton, a former legislator with extensive knowledge of wind energy policy, will lead the wind energy sessions. For biofuels, Lowell Rasmussen of the University of Minnesota-Morris and Christina Connelly of Minnesota Department of Agriculture will speak. Also part of that session will be Bill Lee from Chippewa Valley Ethanol plant in Benson.

Linda Meschke of Rural Advantage, Fairmont, will be moderating the panel on biomass feed stocks. She will be joined by Alan Doering from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute in Waseca -- who Thuringer said focuses on plant residue -- and Vance Owens, who works in the plant science department at South Dakota State University.

Thuringer credited Dennis Hample of Minnesota West's Jackson campus for coordinating the renewable energy track of the conference.

"The format that these panels will take is the moderator will introduce the panelists, and the panelists will make short presentations about their backgrounds and what they do," Thuringer said. "The majority of the time will be spent interacting with attendees at the session. In order to spur the discussions, we are assigning each session within renewable energy two questions that we want them to address."

Thuringer added that during Thursday's breakout sessions, a person from BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota will observe; the next day, Alliance representatives will report back to the full conference on what they heard.


For more information on the conference or to register, go to or call 372-5515.

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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