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Between Two Worlds

Howard-Yana Shapiro bridges the corporate and academic worlds, writes Edward Ortiz at the Sacramento Bee. Shapiro is both chief agricultural officer at Mars, the candy company, and a senior fellow in agricultural sciences at the University of California, Davis.

Shapiro studies the genomes of plants like alfalfa, corn, and tomatoes to search for variants that confer tolerance to drought, pests, and more, and is working on how to best grow rice — not surprising, Ortiz says, as Mars owns the Uncle Ben's brand.

He's also, Ortiz reports, been a key player in the sequencing and public release of the cacao genome a few years ago. Mars, a privately held company, could've kept the genome private as its intellectual property, but Shapiro tells Ortiz that the Mars family agreed with him to make the genome publicly available. He'd argued that making the genomic data available would lead to more research that would help cacao farmers and, eventually, chocolate companies.

"[Shapiro is] the kind of person that can transcend beyond the corporate world," William Guyton, president of the World Cocoa Foundation tells the Sacramento Bee. "He sees things through a lens that others in the corporate world do not."