Roger Beachy, long-time head of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, has agreed to join the Obama Administration as director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the new research funding arm of the US Department of Agriculture. As the head of this organization, Beachy aims to fund studies that answer agriculture’s most pressing challenges, including “sustainable food production and nutrition, readiness for climate aberrations that will impact productivity and developing renewable options like biofuels.”
Under Roger Beachy’s leadership NIFA will prioritize education in its grant-making in order to “ensure that the knowledge we gain from research reaches farmers and consumers; from the lab to the field to the fork.” He also hopes to fund innovative and exploratory projects, including looking into additional areas of ag biotech development.
Roger Beachy will be speaking at the 2010 Biotechnology Industry Organization Annual Convention at a summit organized by the Food & Ag and Industrial & Environmental sections of BIO.
You can read a full interview with Mr. Beachy in Nature and Biotechnology here.
Joel Kotkin of Forbes Magazine discusses the troubling “assault on mainstream farmers” that is slowly manifesting itself in policies that result in “cutoffs on water…and a growing movement to ban the use of genetic engineering in crops” at a time when the world population is multiplying rapidly. He reminds his readers that agriculture’s impact extends further than many assume, and a threat to mainstream agriculture and scientifically run farms will hurt the U.S. economy by adversely affecting growth in other sectors, including food processing, marketing, shipping and supermarkets.
According to Mr. Kotkin, a realist approach must guide our food policy because “scientifically advanced farming still produces the majority of the average family’s foodstuffs, as well as the bulk of our exports,” whereas “organic foods and beverages account for less than 3% of all food sales in the U.S.” He believes that this approach will help us feed the world while growing our economy and saving American jobs.
You can read Joel Kotkin’s entire piece here.
CBI recently blogged about a coexistence workshop at the Maine Agricultural Trade Show in our Ag Biotech Across the Nation series. The Kennebec Journal also reported on this event that aimed to bring ideas from organic and biotech advocates, and create constructive solutions that will lead to more sustainable crop production.
CBI expert Dr. Pamela Ronald, Professor of Plant Pathology at University of California - Davis, and her husband Raoul Adamchak, Market Garden Coordinator at the UC – Davis Student Farm, were involved in the event and advocated for a sustainable agriculture definition that includes genetically engineered crops and organic production methods. Dr. Ronald pointed out that in China the use of insecticides fell by 156 million pounds with the use of genetically modified cotton. She also said agricultural biotechnology is needed because “genetic technology is key to helping feed the growing population.”
You can read more about the coexistence event here.
Paul Voosen from Greenwire discusses the emergence of molecular breeding as one of the many techniques of biotech crop development. Molecular breeding uses latent genes in discarded seed varieties of a particular crop type.
Voosen says, “This next generation could shake up what has become a stalled debate by introducing GM crops that, for example, use only their species’ native genes or have the expression of their own genes silenced.”
By utilizing native genetic information instead of foreign genes, molecular breeding has avoided criticism from some traditional opponents of biotech crops.
The entire article can be read here.