Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Two conferences in one week

I got to attend two conferences in Davis and Sacramento CA with"Genomics" in the title last week.  In addition to the the sequencing stuff, of which I am not really a player, there were two sessions that spoke to agriculture.  There is significant concern, of which you may be aware, that food supplies may not expand to serve the expected population by 2050. This is due to expanding population and to more cultures including more animal foods in their diet.  1/6 of people are now "stunted", meaning inferior mental and body growth due to malnutrition or calorie restriction. 

There were a couple of presentations addressing heritage seed genetics.  Some of the many seed varieties developed by crossings, a la Gregory Mendel, have desirable characteristics of low water requirements, disease resistance, tight seed heads, etc.  It's not always possible to breed all these genes into one organism, so genetic engineering is one way to fit these genes into a single cell.  The resultant GMO seeds would not release "new" genes into the world, but would increase the yield and nutritive value of the resultant crop.  So to characterise all GMO seeds as dangerous is a very wide brush that can tar a valuable tool to enhance food security for the next generations.  Not common to get a global take-away from a scientific meeting.

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