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Howard-Yana Shapiro, PhD,

Chief Agricultural Officer, Mars Advanced Research Institute Fellow, Mars, Incorporated

Senior Fellow, Department of Plant Sciences , College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences , University of California, Davis

Science Advisor, MIT-Media Lab

Distinguished Fellow, World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya


Howard has been involved with sustainable agricultural and agroforestry systems, plant breeding, molecular biology and genetics for over 45 years. He has worked with indigenous communities, NGO’s, governmental agencies and the private sector around the world. His academic career spanned 25 years and in 2009 he was named recipient of The Award of Distinction from The College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis. 

He led the global effort sequencing, assembling and annotating the Theobroma cacao genome, and initiated the Arachis genome.

Shapiro founded the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) and the African Plant Breeding Academy (AfPBA) in 2011.  The effort will sequence, assemble and annotate 101 key food cultivars, which are the backbone of African nutrition. Additionally, the AfPBA will train 150 African scientists in modern breeding technology for discovery and translation of new nutritionally improved varieties.  Currently there are 81 crop breeding programs in process with 61 genomes complete.

In October of 2017 he launched the Foldit Aflatoxin Puzzle with 460,000 gamers to redesign and improve enzymes to degrade the aflatoxin.

He has been interviewed and published extensively in print, on the radio and television:

BBC, CCTV, New York Times, Financial Times, NPR, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Fortune, The Economist, Scientific American, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Speigel, La Republicca, The Times of India, The Standard (Africa) Handelsblatt, The World Bank, National Research Council, International Finance Corporation amongst many.


A short list of Conferences or Congress’s he has presented at:

  • Economist Symposium on the Future of Food
  • TedXAmsterdam
  • Clinton Global Initiative
  • World Bank/IFC/WCF Conference
  • WWF-Care Symposium:  The End of Food Security
  • 1st International Conference on Genomics, Philadelphia
  • Plant and Animal Genome Conferences 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018
  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd World Congress of Agroforestry
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Harvard University, Center for International Development, Enhancing Food Security in an Era of Global Climate Change
  • Aspen Ideas Festival
  • Bellagio Policy Dialogue Towards a Shared Action Framework for Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change in Africa
  • Princeton Conference on Agriculture:  Feeding a Hot and Hungry Planet-The Challenge of Making More Food and Fewer Greenhouse Gases
  • International Consortium on Applied Bioeconomy Research 20th Annual Conference
  • UN-CFS Rome International Symposium on Sustainable Food        
  • The Alexandria Summit
  • Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summit
  • Kew Agriculture Performance Standards Dialogue
  • Lindau-Nobel Laureates Meeting on Economic Sciences
  • The World Food Prize Symposia


He collects and restores classic American, modern Japanese and Italian motorcycles, recently becoming a member of the 200 Mile Per Hour Club on an unrestricted 1999 Suzuki Hayabusa, averaging 201.386 MPH at the Bonneville Salt Flats.