Arlene Cotie

Telling the Story of Global Food Production

I’ve always wanted to be a farmer. And while I might not be driving the tractor or hand harvesting when I show up to work, I feel like I have the best of both worlds: telling the stories about people who do work the land, connecting science with consumers, and doing my best to help everyone embrace their role in feeding the future.

I was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan, Canada that my great-grandfather homesteaded back in 1910. Although I didn’t want to leave the farm, my father encouraged me to go to the University of Saskatchewan where I graduated from the School of Agriculture then joined a Bayer predecessor company as a plant breeding agronomist. I had the chance to work several jobs in Canada before an opportunity in Australia, and eventually accepted a position to launch LibertyLink soybeans at Bayer as well as the Respect the Rotation program in the US. It was during this time that I cultivated a passion for weed resistance management, and Bayer’s mission to invest over $1 million for research in that critical area.

As I reflect on my involvement in the development of GMOs in the 1990s, I’ve have had the chance to fully observe how the future of food is dependent on new technologies and approaches. Through my involvement in Respect the Rotation, I’ve also been able to witness new research and incredible breakthroughs around resistance management and land stewardship. My biggest epiphany was what I realized about the importance of storytelling and communicating those advancements to the public.

Arlene Cotie
Arlene Cotie
Arlene Cotie,
Senior Development Manager for Crop Science, a Division of Bayer, Herbicides

As a member of the agriculture community, I used to rely solely on science and regulatory approval to prove success. I thought this process would be enough. However, it became clear that there’s a necessary element when telling the story of scientific advancement to the public, and it’s not in numbers: it’s in one-to-one conversations. It’s telling the story in ways that the public will understand and appreciate. What are we doing, and why? It’s explaining that breeding advancements offer an necessary solution for feeding an ever-growing world, not ruining it. And it’s remembering that we live in an age of information and social media, and not all that information is accurate - so as a large corporation, we need to commit to telling the story of our science. This is why my role at Bayer has evolved to focusing on how we can translate science and technology advancements for our customers in ways they’ll understand. I’ve always been passionate about this field, so having an official job communicating about the work that goes on across farms – it’s a dream!

Even outside the office, I’ll talk to my friends and neighbors about what weed resistance is and what it means for them. It’s tough! Farmers don’t always acknowledge the issue until it’s dire. My non-farmer friends understand weed resistance better when it’s framed in a different context, like antibiotic resistance in healthcare. But opening the one-on-one conversation is a necessary start to change how people view this issue. I find it so fulfilling when I’m able to connect the dots for someone, so they can see how certain methods lead to more stable and sustainable food sources - in a way that makes sense to them.

I own part of our family farm in Canada where I apply the weed resistance management practices I’ve learned through our research at Bayer. I’ll admit, it’s not always the “easy” path. Short-term, it can cost more in time and money. But operating in a way that influences long-term sustainability for our land and food supply makes me confident about where our next generation of food will come from. I hope that between my farming practices and the stories I tell on behalf of Bayer, more people will open their minds to this way of working.

Growing up on our farm as a young girl, I knew that we harvested our wheat for export. What I didn’t know is how critical that small role was to our community, our country, and the world. Now that I have this perspective from working at a global corporation, my mission is to instill that sense of importance to EVERYONE that contributes to our food system. Whether you’re a farmer, a scientist, or a grocery store produce manager, you play a vital role. And I hope you find that as inspiring as I do!

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