with Steve Strauss, Distinguished Professor, College of Forestry, Oregon State University
Today’s farmers feed more than 7 billion people, and we can trace much of this bounty and efficiency to traditional agricultural technologies, especially plant breeding, fertilizers, and chemical management of soil and weeds — major ingredients of the first Green Revolution. However, population growth and increased demands for higher quality food will require large improvements in agricultural productivity going forward, while we minmize the undesired environmental and social effects of more intense farming systems.
Direct modification of DNA, or genetic engineering, is a new tool for plant breeding that has spread at unprecedented speed over the last two decades. However, it has also come up against strong social and legal resistance in many countries, making its future significance as a tool to promote productivity and sustainability uncertain.
At the Oct. 14 Corvallis Science Pub, Steve Strauss, director of Oregon State University’s Outreach in Biotechnology program, will discuss the pros and cons of gene technology for agriculture. He will review what the technology actually is, how it is similar and different from conventional breeding, and how it has impacted agriculture to date. He will also discuss diverse sources of the controversy surrounding it, including the numerous myths and confusing science that pervade the online world. “Gene technology is a valuable tool, not a silver bullet,” Strauss says. “It can do a lot, but it must be used with due caution and as part of integrated, ecologically guided management systems for sustained benefit.”
He also argues that it appears capable of providing major humanitarian benefits to the poor by improving nutrition and food security. “Despite the fears and growing legal barriers, the stakes in this debate are too high to turn away from. We must find socially acceptable ways to move forward.”
Strauss is a distinguished professor in the Oregon State College of Forestry and a Fellow of the Leopold Leadership Program at Stanford University. He is also the director of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative at OSU that conducts research on mitigation of risks from genetic engineering in forestry.
Science Pub Corvallis offers cool presentations in an informal atmosphere where you can interact with experts and where there are no silly questions. No scientific background is required – just bring your curiosity, sense of humor, and appetite for food, drinks and knowledge!
Held on the second Monday of the month, 6-8pm, Science Pub is sponsored by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Downtown Corvallis Association and Terra magazine at Oregon State University.