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the foundation
of civilization

Plant breeding:
the foundation
of agriculture

Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee

Subcommittee - Safe and Secure Food and Fiber System

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This is the report from the subcommittee on a Safe and Secure Food and Fiber System of the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee. It met as part of the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee in Cary, North Carolina on February 7-9, 2007.

This report was prepared by:

  • Travis Frey
  • Jim Holland
  • Goal
    • a Safe and Secure Food and Fiber System
  • Introduction
    • The safety and security of our food, fiber, and biomaterials supply is of the utmost importance for the survival of mankind.  The constant onslaught of pests, pathogens and abiotic stresses, including global climate change, warrant increased diligence in the development of new varieties of plants that can grow and thrive in this changing environment.  A key issue related to the security of our supply of biomaterials is the increasing need to produce biofuels.  The production of biofuels through the use of plant products provides cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuels, and reduces our dependency on foreign oil. A consequence of increasing use of plant products for biofuels, however, is a reduction in their supply for food consumption.  These concerns can be eliminated through the development of improved varieties of plants that produce more yield and biomass, resist more stresses and are healthier for the environment and the consumer.  The development of these improved varieties is contingent on the existence of trained plant breeders.  Currently the pool of individuals training plant breeders is disappearing and the next generation of plant breeders is at risk of going extinct if we don’t act quickly.
  • Recommendations
    • The most significant recommendation to preserve the future of plant breeding is to develop educational materials and curriculum for undergraduate genetic classes and K-12 education as well as media packages for print, television, and the web which discuss and focus on the above mentioned safety and security concerns.  It is also important to establish media training for those representing the plant breeding community to discuss these concerns in a concise and thoughtful manner.  This strategy will be essential for the recruitment of the next generation of plant breeders and will create the demand for plant breeding education.  Documentation referencing the significant impacts of plant breeding on ameliorating the economic, social and scientific status of the environment and mankind through securing the food supply will be pivotal in preserving the future discipline of plant breeding training through funding for education and research.  This need to include economic analysis and benefits of plant breeding in revised NRC documentation written with involvement and input of National Academy of Sciences plant breeders such as Major Goodman, Arnel Hallauer, Norman Borlaug and Gurdev Khush.  Further, a revised NRC document on genetic vulnerability would be useful in justifying the need for plant breeding.  Documentation illustrating the contributions of plant breeding to the development of biotech crops that reduce the impact of stresses on plant production and help secure the food supply is of major importance with particular emphasis being placed on the complementation of breeding and biotech.  This documentation should be used to support a concerted effort to create new federal funds directed toward the education of scientists working in the area of plant breeding.
  • Partnerships
    • Establishment of new partnerships and strengthening of existing partnerships across both the public and private-sectors is critical.  Interactions with federal, state, and NGO decision and policy makers such as the Economic Research Service, the Government Accountability Office, state and federal energy policy makers, USDA-ARS, NRCS, APHIS, Homeland Security, OMB, Office of Science and Technology Policy, department of interior addressing climate change and the National Plant Germplasm System.  Further coordination with the professional societies such as the ASTA, ASA/CSSA, ASHS, AOSCA, ISHS, and ISF and successfully leveraging their expertise as well as lobbying efforts is critical to the success of establishing plant breeding as a sustainable discipline.  Development of stronger relationships with university economists, ethanol and biodiesel organizations, and groups such as the Environmental Defense Group, the Heirloom Seed Groups, and international partners such as the CG system, the Grains Research and Development Corporation in Australia and the FAO are also needed.
  • Summary
    • In summary, creation of educational materials and curriculum for K-12 and undergraduate education as well as media packages for print, television and the web will aid in creating an influx of potential plant breeders which will drive the need for universities to hire more instructors for plant breeding education.  The development of documentation in the form of white pages and NRC recommendations illustrating the benefits of plant breeding economically, socially, and environmentally will aid in the communication to policy makers to provide funding support for both education and research in the field of plant breeding.  Lastly, establishing new partnerships and strengthening existing relationships with governmental agencies, consumer groups, food processors, professional societies, environmental groups, international partners as well as the public and private-sectors will provide support and validity to the profession.  Accomplishing the above mentioned goals is crucial for the success of plant breeding recruitment, training, and research in the future.
  • Participating attendees in this workgroup:
    • Jim Ballington
    • Dale Clark
    • Harold Coble
    • Ben Edge
    • Karl Glasener
    • J. Steven Brown
    • Katy Martin Rainey
    • Todd Campbell
    • Mark Burow
    • M. Jared Iqbal
    • Allen Van Deynze
    • Ramsey S. Lewis
    • Susana Milla-Lewis
    • Gina Brown-Guedira
    • Jim Holland
    • Travis Frey
    • Jennifer Nicholson
    • Tom Isleib
    • Jim Peterson


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Page citation: Wehner, T.C. Global Plant Breeding, 30 March 2005;
design by C.T. Glenn; send questions to T.C. Wehner; last revised on 30 September, 2009