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DAA: Janis E. McFarland

Janis McFarland

Janis E. McFarland

Chapel Hill, NC | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2010

Janis McFarland counts herself fortunate to work in a dynamic industry on the brink of even greater technology-based advances: “It’s never been more exciting, meaningful, and fun to work in agriculture than today,” she says. As head of Regulatory Affairs, McFarland oversees product registrations and stewardship of Syngenta’s crop protection products in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Since November 2000, the global agribusiness has received registration approvals from the EPA and states for more than 150 new fungicide, herbicide, and insecticide products, and for 15 new crop seed treatments. McFarland grew up in Maryland, the fourth of eight children. With degrees from Virginia Tech and Purdue, she began her career with Ciba-Geigy, studying the fate of herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides in plants, animals, and the environment. In November 1993, she headed an EPA-mandated review of the risks and benefits of atrazine, the most widely used herbicide in corn production, and related herbicides. The project resulted in a state-of-the-art scientific database for an older product, and the EPA issued a new registration for atrazine in 2006. The scientific advances resulting from studies that McFarland’s teams conducted has improved the design of safety tests and methodology used in risk assessments for many other pesticides. Ciba-Geigy was part of a merger that created Novartis in 1997. Novartis was part of a merger that created Syngenta in 2000. Throughout what some might view as corporate upheaval, McFarland embraced the benefits of change: “At every merger, we gained great people, different teams’ expertise, and new technology.” Her model for openly sharing knowledge across disciplines, she adds, was Purdue. McFarland is also an editor and author, and is active in the Weed Science Society of America. She loves fishing, kayaking, visiting relatives far and near, and more recently, learning more about the native plants of North Carolina. She and her husband of 30 years, Dr. Richard McLaughlin (also a Purdue alumnus) have two college-age children, two dogs, and two cats. “My unique experience at Purdue bridged basic and applied sciences. Even those of us considered ‘lab geeks’ had opportunities to be out in the field. Purdue emulated the way we work today across teams and different agricultural disciplines.”