Howard-Yana Shapiro has been involved with sustainable agricultural and agroforestry systems, plant breeding, molecular biology, and genetics for over 40 years. He has worked with indigenous communities, NGO’s, governmental agencies and the private sector around the world. He is a Senior Fellow at UC Davis, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, involving graduate student and post-doctoral students exclusively. A former Fulbright Scholar, Ford Foundation Fellow, in 2007, Howard was made a Distinguished Fellow of the World Agroforestry Centre and authored the IAASTD chapter on Biotechnology and Biodiversity. He was a member of the National Research Council Committee on Citrus and Greening, a founding member of the Keystone Roundtable on Sustainable Agriculture, co-chair of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd World Congress of Agroforestry and is Chairperson of the External Advisory Board of the Agriculture Sustainability Institute at UC Davis. In 2009, he was named recipient of The Award of Distinction from The College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis.
Howard led the global effort sequencing, assembling, and annotating the Theobroma cacao genome, and initiated the Arachis genome. He 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 80 crop breeding programs in process with 47 genomes complete.
In October of 2017, Howard 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 including the BBC, New York Times, Financial Times, NPR, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal to name just a few.