"Biotech Prominent In California's Ag Research" (14/9/2006)

Deans of three colleges of the University of California - Berkeley, Riverside and Davis - have reaffirmed their support for GM. Now, there's a surprise.

UC Berkeley was, of course, party to the notorious Syngenta tie-up (or should that be buy-up) - a five-year, $25 million deal - not to mention the persecution of the deal's main opponent, Dr Ignacio Chapela. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4200

UC Davis is also deeply involved with biotech interests with nearby Calgene (now owned by Monsanto) a 'start up' project from UC Davis funding.

And all 3 colleges are home to some of the most fervent GM proponents in the US. Riverside, for instance, boasts Alan McHughen, the author of 'Pandora's Picnic Basket', a popular guide to GM that argues that many of the concerns about genetic engineering are based on "myths" and "misinformation". According to McHughen, "Opponents to GM put forward untenable pseudo-scientific assertions, then run away, unwilling or unable to defend their positions." The most vocal of hard core GM supporters at Davis has to be Rick Roush, while Berkeley boasts Peggy Lemaux, who's quoted below.

Biotech Prominent In California's Ag Research: University Deans Throw Support Behind Need for Biotechnology
by: Don Curlee
via Capitol Press and AgBioView

It doesn't look like the anti-GMO crowd can expect any support for its position from policy-makers at the University of California who oversee agricultural research.

Deans of the three colleges of the university that deal with agriculture wrote a joint statement for the July-September issue of the university's publication California Agriculture.

"The ability to adapt plants, animals and microbes using the traditional and new tools of biotechnology has already had an impact and will certainly play an increasing role in agriculture," they said.

The three are Paul Ludden, dean of the College of Natural Resources at Berkeley; Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Davis; and Steve Angle, dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at Riverside.

Pointing to the overseas production of products essential to agriculture such as oil, ammonia-based fertilizers and potassium and phosphorous supplies they said: "All of these issues beg for biotechnical solutions to help farmers adapt and conserve precious resources."

Referring to an article in an earlier edition that emphasized research leading to manipulation of the genetics of specialty crops the writers said: "These crops are the basis of California's competitive agricultural economy and it is critical for UC to do the research that will keep this sector of our state's economy competitive in global markets."

In the same issue Cooperative Extension specialist Peggy Lemaux at Berkeley provided some perspective on the advance of biotechnology in food production.

She pointed out that the genetic engineering to modify plants that was first applied in tobacco in 1983, now plays dominant roles in the production of canola, corn, cotton, soy and alfalfa, and to a limited degree, papaya, sweet corn and some squash.

She said the UC-based Public Intellectual Property for Research in Agriculture and the national Specialty Crops Research Initiative provide opportunities for genetically engineered crops.

"With these factors playing a role, perhaps the promise of biotechnology for California's small-acreage crops will be realized," she said.

Elsewhere in the publication UC researchers address some of the concerns often voiced by those who oppose including and accepting biotechnology. One article is titled When Crop Transgenes Wander in California Should We Worry. Another: Scientists Evaluate Potential Environmental Risks of Transgenic Crops.

A list is included of the 39 transgenic crops that have been approved for field testing through Jan. 16, 2006. Thirteen of them are among the state's top-20 crops.

Biotechnology in the food crops is firmly entrenched in California and in the research machinery that will develop further tools to make the industry profitable and vital and its products useful and acceptable.

Those who don't like biotechnology are free to express opposition based on fear, tradition or mere seat-of-the-pants inklings. If they are producing food, fiber, flowers or fish they can continue to do so the old-fashioned way without interference from modern scientific research.


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