Dr. Somerville is Director of the Energy Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National lab and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, a new institute initiated with a $500M award from BP (www.energybiosciencesinstitute.org). Dr. Somerville is a professor at UC Berkeley and a faculty scientist in the physical biosciences division at LBL. He has published more than 200 scientific papers and patents in plant and microbial genetics, genomics, biochemistry, and biotechnology. Dr. Somerville's current research is focused on the characterization of proteins, such as cellulose synthase, implicated in plant cell wall synthesis and modification. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, The Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada and has received numerous scientific awards including most recently the Balzan Award which he shared with Elliot Meyerowitz (Caltech). Dr. Somerville was a founder of Mendel Biotechnology and LS9 Inc., two biotechnology companies with activities in the biofuels area. He was chairman of the board of Mendel from 1997-2007.
How does agricultural biotechnology contribute to solving the world's need for more food, water, and fuels?
It allows improved adaptation of plants and microorganisms to managed environments that increase productivity and decrease inputs.
Why should the public and policymakers care about agricultural biotechnology?
Population growth is straining resources. Ag Biotech can facilitate efficient use of resources, minimize inputs, and maximize the amount of land available for ecosystem services.
Where will the field of agricultural biotechnology be in 10 years?
The field will have moved beyond the first generation of products such as herbicide tolerance and insect tolerance to products that increase productivity through other mechanisms such as drought tolerance and intrinsic yield increases.