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ASPB member Patrick Schnable gives Capitol Hill seminar on the future of our food

Posted By Kathy R. Munkvold, Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ASPB member Patrick Schnable addressed a standing room only crowd of congressional staffers, agency representatives, and others interested in scientific research in a hearing room for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. The presentation was part of National Coalition for Food and Agriculture Research’s (National C-FAR’s) "Lunch~N~Learn” seminar series. Schnable is the Baker Professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University, the founding director of the university’s Center for Plant Genomics, and a member of the ASPB public affairs committee. He was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010.

The seminar, entitled "Mapping for the future of our food,” focused on the importance of public sector funding of plant science research and development in boosting crop yields amid increasing demands for plant-based products including food, feed, fiber, and fuel. Schnable called for innovation in addressing potential challenges, namely decreasing amounts of arable land, increasing costs and undesirable ecological impacts of agricultural inputs, and coping with climate variability.

Schnable highlighted the value of next generation sequencing technologies in linking genes to crop traits resulting in ultimate improvements in yield, disease and pest resistance, and nutrient utilization. He sees traditional breeding and genetic engineering as complementary approaches in meeting this goal. He stressed that U.S. involvement in this type of agricultural research is essential. In the absence of federal support for scientific research in these areas, other countries have the means to do this research and will profit in areas such as intellectual property, including patents on genes associated with beneficial traits, and job growth at our expense. He emphasized that the time between the initial research and a finished crop variety displaying an enhanced trait is on the scale of a decade or more—so now is the time to make investments to address anticipated challenges ahead. Moreover, public sector support must be continuous to allow progress to be made.

National C-FAR is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, consensus-based, and customer-led coalition that brings food, agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and natural resource stakeholders (including ASPB) together with the food and agricultural research and extension community. The coalition serves as a forum and a unified voice in support of sustaining and increasing public investment at the national level in food and agricultural research, extension, and education. For additional information, go to www.ncfar.org.

Tags:  Congress  event  National C-FAR 

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