AUSTIN, Texas (March 1, 2023) — The nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) is pleased to announce that pharmacognosist Joseph M. Betz, PhD, has been elected to the ABC Board of Trustees. Dr. Betz served in the United States government for 33 years, 12 years as a research chemist at the US Food and Drug Administration, and 21 years at the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). For the past four-and-a-half years, he was the acting director of ODS.
Dr. Betz earned a doctorate in pharmacognosy (the study of medicines of natural origin, from plant or animals) at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (PCPS) where he studied under Professor Ara Der Marderosian. Der Marderosian’s primary area of research was marine natural products, but he also did a considerable amount of work on the chemistry and quality of American and Asian ginseng (Panax quinquefolius and P. ginseng, respectively) for the Ginseng Research Institute, a nonprofit group active in the 1970s and 1980s.
During his graduate work he developed laboratory analytical methods for determining the authenticity of commercial ginseng products, a problem first highlighted in the so-called “Ziglar Report” (1979, named for the funder of the research, Wally Ziglar) in which Dr. Betz analyzed 54 commercial ginseng products in the laboratory at PCPS – which is probably the first attempt to scientifically evaluate commercial herb products in the United States.
Since June 2018, Dr. Betz has served as Acting Director of ODS. Under Dr. Betz’s oversight and with a $28-million operating budget, the ODS staff has carried out its mission to support, conduct, and coordinate scientific research and provide intellectual leadership for the purpose of strengthening the knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements to foster an enhanced quality of life and health for the US population.
Prior to the Acting Director appointment at ODS, Dr. Betz was director of the Analytical Methods and Reference Materials Program at ODS, a congressionally mandated program for the development and validation of laboratory analytical methods for botanical dietary ingredients and dietary supplements. In this capacity, he worked closely with analytical chemistry experts at AOAC International where he held various committee positions including chair of the editorial board of the Journal of AOAC International and membership on the executive committee of the AOAC Technical Division on Reference Materials. He was named a Fellow of AOAC in 2004 and in 2019 received AOAC’s prestigious Harvey W. Wiley Award, the organization’s highest scientific honor.
Between his FDA and NIH days, he spent two years as vice-president for scientific and technical affairs at the American Herbal Products Association, the leading industry trade association in the United States focused on herbs and medicinal plants.
Betz’s scientific research in medicinal plants was acknowledged by ABC when it bestowed upon him the first ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award in 2006, an award that was designated by the late Professor Farnsworth himself. Dr. Betz has been a member of the ABC Advisory Board for over 25 years, since 1996 during his tenure as a research scientist at the US FDA.
“I am deeply honored to join the Board of Trustees of the American Botanical Council,” said Betz. “The educational vision is sweeping and accessible, artful and rigorous. This is in no small part due to the dedication and excellence of staff and the efforts of current and past Board Members. I am humbled to join such an elite group and to stand with them on the shoulders of the giants who preceded us.”
“I have known Joe as a friend and colleague for over 45 years,” said ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, “and I have appreciated his support for ABC and our unique nonprofit research and educational mission while he has served actively as a highly valued member of the ABC advisory board for 25 years. Now that he has retired from over 30 years as one of the leading experts on medicinal plant research in the US government, it is a great benefit to the global medicinal plant community that he has joined the ABC Board of Trustees so he can continue his deep scientific experience in the public’s interest via ABC’s extensive nonprofit platform.”
Stefan Gafner, PhD, ABC’s chief science officer and director of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP), said “It’s a great privilege to have someone of Dr. Betz’ caliber on the ABC board of trustees. He has devoted his entire career to the science of medicinal plants, and he is considered one of the foremost experts in medicinal plant analysis. He is one of the most respected scientists in the area of herbal dietary supplements due to his scholarship, extensive knowledge, integrity, and his respectful personality. He is one of the people I have always admired and I really look forward to working with him more closely.”
“I am delighted to share that Joseph Betz, PhD, was elected to serve on the ABC Board of Trustees,” said Josef Brinckmann, Research Fellow at Traditional Medicinals and President of the ABC Board of Trustees. “I have followed Dr. Betz’s work in methods development and pharmacognosy since the 1980s, and through his impressive career applying botanical science expertise while at the FDA and later at NIH, as well as his service on numerous expert committees including at the United States Pharmacopeia. ABC is indeed fortunate to have Betz, a world class pharmacognosist, on the board.”
Dr. Betz is the author or co-author of 109 articles in peer-reviewed journals and 13 book chapters. In addition to the above-mentioned honors, he has also received the American Society of Pharmacognosy’s Tyler Prize and the American Herbal Product Association's Herbal Insight Award for Contributions to the Botanical Sciences.