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Frostban Field Trial

Client: Advanced Genetic Sciences


Pioneering agricultural biotechnology company seeks state and local approvals for open air field trial.

Advanced Genetic Sciences, a pioneering agricultural biotechnology company headquartered in Oakland, California, developed Frostban, a bacterial-based treatment capable of reducing frost damage to fruit and nut crops. As the first U.S. field trial, Frostban became a lightening rod for opponents of the emerging biotechnology industry.

The company contacted us after failing to secure the necessary federal, state and local approvals for a planned field trial in Monterey County, California. Advanced Genetic Sciences (AGS) contracted with us to help with its second attempt to test Frostban.

Throughout the first four months of 1987, we worked with management, scientists and other consultants to neutralize opposition and build local support for the proposed test. While the company secured federal and state approvals, our task was to direct a sustained outreach effort in the two Northern California communities chosen as candidate test sites(Contra Costa and San Benito Counties.

The scores of small group meetings, public hearings and forums, elected official briefings and media contact led to substantial public support for hosting the field trial. In the end, both counties’ Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support the Frostban test, as did the Brentwood City Council.

AGS’ early morning application of Frostban on a strawberry patch near Brentwood on April 26, 1987 was witnessed and reported on by 75 media outlets from throughout the world.

With the publically-traded company betting on the outcome, the Frostban permit process was a high-pressure exercise. As AGS’ Vice President John Bedbrook wrote to Robert Kahn: “Getting Frostban commercialization underway has been an almost unbelievable experience what with highly emotional public meetings, court cases, mass media attention, radicals, vandalism, political subterfuge, congressional hearings, etc... Even today I remain amazed and obviously extremely pleased that we, with your help, have been able to turn this public situation around.”

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