Diego Risso, executive director of the Seed Association of the Americas (SAA), talks about the challenges that the SAA faces and the changes in plant breeding in South America.
Seed World: What is your favorite book currently on your bookshelf and why?
Diego Risso: The One Minute Manager. It’s an old book, but everything inside the book makes sense for today. We’re living in a world with a lot of adrenaline, where we have less time to think and make plans, both in work and at home. In order to be smart when making decisions, if you lack time, you need to be a good manager and make quick decisions. This book teaches how to make quick decisions and how to be a good team player.
SW: Favorite hobby?
DR: Playing soccer and sharing time with my family. It’s not a hobby necessarily, but it’s what I like to do.
SW: What would you never leave the house without?
DR: My mobile phone. I need to be connected. It’s difficult for me to be disconnected from my family. I have three children and my wife, and I will never be able to travel without my phone. I also work for the Uraguyan Association as well as the SAA, so I need to be connected to my members.
SW: Who was your most influential mentor?
DR: My father. He passed away a few years ago, but he’s also an agronomist, like me. He was also involved in seed breeding. He was also one of my early bosses in the seed industry.
SW: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing members of SAA today?
DR: Regulations. If I needed to define it in one word, it’s compliance with regulations. I’m focused on promoting the seed trade in the Americas, and regulations is a key part of my job. Compliance with regulations is definitely a big challenge.
SW: What’s the biggest success you’ve had working with the SAA?
DR: Bringing together the seed industry representatives with government officials and regulators to discuss development and implementation of regulations.
SW: Where do you see the future of plant breeding going in South America?
DR: As big companies get bigger, there are opportunities for medium and smaller companies, but also challenges and threats. I think that licensing will be very important because now we are seeing many agreements between companies about breeding through licensing. It’s important for small and medium companies to find a way where they can compete with larger companies. Plant breeding in soybeans, corn, and our major crops will take the lead, and plant breeding innovation is something that our region will be active on. GMs are very important for our region, but in the past, all our GMs are made in North America. Now, South America will be able to develop our own needs with our tools–we will become an active participant in plant breeding innovation, instead of sitting on the sidelines.