Shapiro was born in America in 1947 to Lithuanian and Russia parents. In 1989 he and his wife, Nancy, set up Seeds of Change, an organic seed producer and supplier. The company was sold to Mars Inc. in 1997, and Shapiro took on the role of Senior Scientist in plant science and agroforestry/agroecology for M&M, Mars. He went on to become Research Manager for plant science in 2000 and Global Director of Plant Science and External Research in 2005. He is Adjunct Professor in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis, and leads the Multi-Disciplinary Research Unit, a collaborative effort between Mars, UC Davis and The University of Nottingham. He also serves on the external advisory board of UC Davis’ Agricultural Sustainability Institute. He has been a university professor, Fulbright Scholar, Ford Foundation Fellow, and has won the National Endowment for the Humanities Award. In 2007 he was awarded the Organic Leadership Award by the Organic Trade Association, and in 2009 he was honored with UC Davis’ College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Award of Distinction.
Recently he has been working with Google X and other groups on a project to end human stunting through better nutrition worldwide, starting in Africa.