Dr. John de la Parra is an ethnobotanist and plant chemist with expertise in food crops and medicinal plants and is currently President of the Society for Economic Botany. His research has focused on new techniques for the optimization of valuable chemical attributes of plants in field and controlled environment agriculture, as well as the promotion of a sustainable food system that includes the knowledge held by indigenous populations.
John is the Director of the Global Food Portfolio at The Rockefeller Foundation where he works to advance a more nourishing and sustainable food system. He drives programming, grantmaking, performance, and partnership within The Global Food Portfolio, including two core programs – the Food System Vision Prize and the Periodic Table of Food.
As an Associate at the Harvard University Herbaria John has regularly delivered lectures and short courses on ethnobotany, food system innovation, agriculture, and medicinal plants. He has held additional appointments as a Research Scientist at MIT, a Lecturer of Environmental Studies at Tufts University, and a Lecturer of Biotechnology at Northeastern University.
John grew up on a farm in rural Alabama, with his family originating in México and South America. His grandmother’s early teachings on plants inspired him to become an ethnobotanist working with indigenous populations to understand how phenotypic selection influences plant-based drug discovery and food choice.
He is the author of a forthcoming book, “Medicinal Plants: From the Sacred to the Scientific” (Springer Nature), and developing his second book "Plant Medicine Magic".