Governor Jim Martin

It was 1977, and Jim Hunt, the newly elected governor of North Carolina, was determined that his traditionally agricultural state would start growing a more fruitful economy. "Early in his first term, Hunt clearly sent out a signal across the state that he was interested in higher-paying jobs," says Ferrel Guillory, who covered Hunt's governorship for the Raleigh News and Observer. "It sounds quaint today that that would be a big deal," Guillory says, but some saw such efforts as a threat to the state's traditional economy.

Hunt's background in agriculture - bachelor's and master's degrees in agricultural education and agricultural economics - helped him to see biotechnology's promise. "I had that perspective that we can work with genetics to improve the varieties of our crops and animals,...

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