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Why don’t farmers save seeds?

Until recently, I never put too much thought into where farmers get the seeds that they grow into the foods we eat. I assumed they saved seeds from their previous crop. I thought this would give the farmer more control over his or her operation and save money. I presumed that if a farmer chose to buy seeds, they would do so out of convenience. In reality, most farmers buy new seeds every year because of genetics! Now I know, and to help people understand the scientific rationale of purchasing new seeds every year, a group of young scientists, including myself, made a short video. In the video, we describe what hybrid plants are, and their benefits to agriculture. We illustrate what would happen if a farmer kept and grew the seeds produced by the hybrid plants.   The video was made by UC Davis scientists Jenna Gallegos (graduate student),

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Play it Hard – A Tribute to Dr. Norman Borlaug

The International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) and Biology Fortified have produced a special video tribute to the late Dr. Norman Borlaug, a legendary CIMMYT scientist who developed high-yielding, semi-dwarf wheat that started the Green Revolution which is credited with saving over 1 billion people from starvation. The release of this tribute coincides with The Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security, on what would have been the 100th birthday of Dr. Borlaug. His message of increasing food production and the importance of using science in this effort are still important today – perhaps more than ever as the world has over 7 billion people and still growing. To follow this event, go to www.borlaug100.org, and follow the #borlaug100 hashtag in social media. For more information about CIMMYT, visit www.cimmyt.org.

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Harmonious Coexistance

Here’s a catchy tune – about coexistence! Back when genetically engineered canola was new in Canada, there was a conversation between two farmers – one who grew organic canola, and the other, GE. That conversation turned into this song: As an added bonus, two of the performers are weed scientists, and the third is a former editor of Weed Technology. (H/T Andrew Kniss) I think the next time I give a talk about the spillover effects of different farming systems, I will just show this video. What do you think?

How to Breed Fruit Trees

Have you ever wondered what goes into breeding your favorite fruit varieties? Breeding apples, plums, oranges and pears is made understandable with this video that explains the basic biology, origins, and techniques involved in breeding fruit trees. This is the latest in my series on how to breed plants. If you are interested to see my other videos, check them out at my graduate program’s YouTube channel. So, now that you’ve seen this, who wants to be an apple breeder?

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Mark Lynas’s Oxford Farming Conference Speech

Years ago, environmental activist and author Mark Lynas campaigned against genetically engineered crops, sometimes ripping them up with his own hands. But in a speech given at the 2013 Oxford Farming Conference on January 3rd, he apologized for these actions, and explained how his opinion has changed over time and has been turned completely around. This speech, the transcript of which you can find on his site, has been heard around the world. It has sparked many discussions in the news media, and in social media as well. He explains that part of his journey from being an anti-GE activist to proponent of the technology is that along the way, he “discovered science.” Perhaps more than that, his environmentally-based values may have steered his beliefs to a different path once the science was made clear. If you haven’t seen it yet, it will be an hour well-spent. 07 Mark Lynas