Sustainable Agriculture Forum Part 1: Keynote Speakers


Boulder County Presents: Sustainable Agriculture
Forum November 6, 2010
Silver Creek High School Part 1: Keynote address Cindy Domenico: Good afternoon everyone, we
are so happy that you are all here today. Want to say welcome to all of you. And also
we are honored to have our panel, who will be speaking with us and are here to help us
kick off dialogue about our cropland policy. Iím one of the County Commissioners. My colleague
Ben Pearlman is here; Will Toor will join us a little bit later. We just have a couple
things weíd like to share with you before we start the program. For those of you who
have been around Boulder County for a long time, you know that agriculture is a very
important industry here in the county, and there is a long history of agriculture here
in Boulder County. The two biggest industries were farming and mining, and particularly
my family, we came here because of all the farming and mining in the early 1880s for
farming. And that farmland, for us, is near Lafayette, was an 80 acre farm, was a diversified
operation for many years, and about three families went through some trying times in
the 1920s and 1930s and 1940s. Itís still a farm at the moment, but as you know itís
very difficult to keep farmland in the Front Range. And so, the mining aspect is a little
bit different, there was a lot of coal mining and that sort of thingÖ the two industries
went hand in hand over many years, until relatively recently, and as we looked at agricultural
land across the county and over the years, we noticed that is was disappearing, just
like every other place in the Front Range. And 30 years ago, a group of people put together
some great thoughts; they created a Comprehensive Plan that was focused on preserving at least
some of that agricultural land, and preserving the agricultural lifestyle, so that we donít
completely lose our heritage, that this county grew from. That Comprehensive Plan helped
guide the way for us to preserve quite a few acres here in Boulder County. Actually 25,000
acres, that are currently farmed by small farmers and ranchers. And just as a (there
we goÖ maybe) just as a way to understand what 25,000 acres looks like, itís around
40 square miles, thatís approximately the size. Thatís a lot of acreage. And of course,
as you know, that land helps buffer our cities, it helps keep our towns and municipalities
independent from one another, it contributes to the quality of life here in Boulder County
in huge ways; makes a huge difference. So we know weíre on the right track with that
Comprehensive Plan, with the open space strategies that we have; putting our efforts into preserving
farmland. And certainly in preserving the agricultural way of life. 2:50
But as we look at those 25,000 acres, particularly in regard to some discussions that happened
last year, we realize that we need to talk about the cropland policies and strategies
that we want to have in place in Boulder County going into the future. How should those 25,000
acres of farmland be farmed? And last year, a very long discussion happened around sugarbeets,
what kind of sugarbeets should be grown, and what it means if you donít grow them or if
you do grow them. And so that has led us to looking at a framework need for a cropland
policy, that is why we are creating a cropland policy advisory committee, to help us work
through the process. That group will examine all the issues and lay out the framework for how decisions will be made
in the future around our cropland usage in the open space acres that we have. And weíre
excited to kick off the dialogue, have a long discussion about it; it was one of the most
challenging hearings I think weíve ever been in, certainly for me. I had been in the office
for about two years before we jumped into this discussion, and it looks into about every
aspect of human life into the discussion that you could think of, and some of you have probably
already thought about that. But thatís part of why weíre here today, to start talking
about what that framework should look like, and weíre very happy that youíre here to
share in the dialogue. Ben Pearlman: And Iíll just add, that I think
it goes without saying, that food is important to all of us, as are our landscapes, the quality
of our environment, and this set of discussions concerns all of that, and weíre lucky enough
to be in a position in Boulder County where we have over the last couple of decades, preserved
this 25,000 acres of land and we have the opportunity to decide how itís going to be
managed. And I think thatís something thatís very different than most communities across
the Front Range, and I think weíre very lucky to be in this position. Nonetheless, it is
a challenging set of issues, and our goal, as a county, is to come up with a path towards
sustainable agriculture for the county. We need to have these agricultural lands be productive
on into the future, and not just for the values that they provide for wildlife on the edges
and the value for buffering between communities, but our food. We believe that local food is
going to a tremendous part of the future in Boulder County. People want to be able to
consume, eat food that is grown locally and healthfully, and I think itís our obligation
to try to work towards that as fast as we possibly can. At a minimum, that means a few
things. First, it means a commitment to continue funding the open space program, of the filling
out the gaps within our agricultural lands, it means looking at our agricultural infrastructure,
which always needs additional funding as far as I can tell from our agricultural managers,
but thatís everything from the ditches and flumes and center pivot irrigation systems
that allow the water to flow because again, in the arid west, irrigation is tremendously
important. Itís also processing facilities, and other ways for farmers to add value to
the crops that they grow, and I think we have a lot of work to do on that as well. Itís
also finding ways to allow farmers to grow more organic crops on Boulder County open
space lands, itís trying to grow farmers themselves. We have some programs in place,
and weíre working very hard to try to teach farmers what they need to know in order to
run these small farms, market farms, and be successful at it. And then, of course, we
need to do what we can as we manage these lands to make available those opportunities
to be able to lease out small parcels of land that have the available water rights so that
people can create something remarkable on those landscapes. So, I think itís one of
the most exciting things we do; I think weíre very lucky to be in this position; weíre
also very lucky that just a couple days ago we had another open space ballot measure pass,
by a very narrow margin, but this means that we will have resources going into the future
to be able to bolster and invest in our agricultural infrastructure and in these lands. And so
my thanks go out to the voters of Boulder County and we appreciate their support in
what has been a very tough last couple of years in the local economy. Weíre very fortunate.
Well with that said, we have some great people to hear from; I think this, what weíre doing
today, and what weíve been doing over the last number of years, is I think, the last
thing I wanted to mention, which is the engagement of the public in how we manage our lands is
tremendously important and weíre deeply grateful to you for being here today. This a joint
project, itís a community project, these are all of our lands and how we manage them
matters to all of us, so weíre just glad that weíre going to have these kinds of discussions,
and have a citizen advisory board for the cropland policy to work with staff on developing
that, and this is kicking that off, so thanks to everyone for being here today. Back to
David. (applause) 8:12
Well first let me say thanks to the Commissioners for showing up today and kicking us off, I
appreciate that, and then I want to say welcome to all of you that have given up a beautiful
Saturday afternoon in November here in Colorado, to come here and help us talk about sustainable
agriculture here in Boulder County. My name is David Bell, Iím the agricultural resource
manager for Boulder County Parks and Open Space. And because we have such a great group
of speakers here, I donít want to take too much time, but I think as I heard, even our
commissioners talking about some of the terms that we throw around as far as open space,
and organic farming, and some of the history weíve had here, I just want to ask, how many
people have not been part of this conversation before this forum? So thatís pretty impressive.
So, like I said, I want to take a few minutes to kind of put this forum into context of
what weíre trying to accomplish, and also kind of put the agricultural program in context
of Parks and Open Space, because a lot of times people think about open space programs,
theyíre not thinking about agriculture, so something that is unique, and Boulder County
again in leading the way in that. So Boulder County protects around 95,000 acres through
the open space program. 35,000 of that is through conservation easements. Conservation
easements are a program that allows the county to purchase the development rights of a property.
And if you think of a property as being a bundle of sticks, you can pull out individual
sticks from that bundle. You can sell your mineral rights, you can sell your water rights,
you can also sell your development rights. So the county has leveraged some of its funds
by buying just those development rights, and allowing the family farmers to keep those
grounds, and manage them the way they have throughout their familiesí history. Again,
protecting the development of those lands, because development is held by the citizens
of Boulder County. The remaining 65,000 acres are called ìfee simpleî propertries. This
is property that the county has gone out and found willing sellers, who wanted to negotiate
with the county to sell their properties at fair market value, and then once that happens,
we as a county take on that property, and the full management of that property. Of those
60,000 acres, 25,000 acres were purchased for agricultural values. As a staff, we donít
have the time, the resources, the talent, to go out and keep those lands in productions,
so because of that, we partner with local farmers and ranchers to make sure these lands
stay productive over time. We call these farmers and ranchers our ìpartners in conservation,î
and these individuals lease the land that produces a diversified variety of crops for
our local markets. They range from barley and beans, to kale and corn. And not only
do these farmers and ranchers help maintain these lands, but the lease revenues go right
back into the open space program. In addition to that, these families farms put right back
into the community. These family farms not only purchase their seeds, their crops, insurance,
their fertilizers from local dealers, they also purchase food, school supplies and clothes,
right here in Boulder County, so that these family farms generate revenue right here in
Boulder County as well. While we recognize the importance of our farmers and tenants
on open space, we also recognize that these are public lands, and we as stewards of public
lands are accountable to the public as well. So, this is where it puts us to day as part
of this cropland policy. The Department is in the process of creating this policy which
will help us make management decisions that reflect the public values and sentiments of
the public, while assuring economic sustainability of agricultural operations, and respecting
and enhancing the environmental systems for the foundation of agriculture. This forum
is the third in our engagement of the public in this conversation. So again for those of
you that this is your first time, weíve also reached out and weíve had an open house at
the Boulder County Fairgrounds, where the public has had the opportunity to talk with
staff, to talk with farmers about what ranching and farming is like in Boulder County. From
then we went ahead and we scheduled tours out in the field. We heard from people that
they wanted to get out and see these lands, they wanted to hear from these farmers and
ranchers what it was really like out there. So we put together a tour. On our first tour,
we rented a bus, we had 50 people, we went out, we looked at a livestock operation, a
row crop operation, and
a vegetable operation. Those 50 people had a wonderful time. Staff had a wonderful time.
I just know when I got done with those tours, you want to get back out again because it
was, I think, a great experience. By the second tour, we had over 100 people, by the third
tour we had over 200 and some people signed up for this, and again by the fourth, we had
the public out there and it allowed over 400 people to see Boulder County agriculture on
open space. The reaction that I saw from the public was just amazing. It took people back
to their childhood with being on farms, it took people that had never been out in a field
to see a sugarbeet or corn; the opportunity to get their hands on the products and walk
the fields, and again, I think talking to the farmers was a huge part of that too. This
now again is this third piece of this conversation, engaging the public in this conversation,
about how we manage our public lands for the future. One of the things I want to be sure
we are clear about as we talk about this is that Boulder County Parks and Open Space lands
and the cropland policy. So weíre only talking about those lands that are owned in fee by
the county. So this does not apply to private lands or conservation easements. So with that
background, Iíd like to spend a few minutes on logistics of this afternoonís program.
So, the program you received when you walked in has a lot of information, so I wonít take
a lot of time reading bios, but there are a couple of things Iíd like to go over that
will make things go a little smoother. There will be three sessions this afternoon, and
between each session there will be a short intermission. During this time, youíll have
a chance to purchase some local foods from the 4-H groups out there. Those products were
donated by local food merchants, so Iíd like to thank Boulder Popcorn, Moeís Bagels, Boulder
Chips, Justinís Nut Butters, and Seth Ellis Chocolatier. All the proceeds from the sales
will go back to those local 4-H clubs. Iíd like to thank the kids for selling that as
well, because when we talk about the future of food, and we talk about the future of farming,
those kids really are our future for farming in this area. And again the adults who have
spent time mentoring and teaching these kids. There will also be book sales in the lobby,
and the authors will be available to sign those after the event. While we encourage
you to buy your products, please enjoy them out in the lobby, because there is no food
and drink allowed in here, and weíre trying to respect the school, and make it easy for
the staff, so weíd like you to keep your snacks in the lobby. Once youíre in the auditorium,
please use the index cards you were provided to write down questions you would like the
panel to answer. And does everyone have their index cards? Do we have enough pens to write
down stuff? Because we can make sure we get that to you guys as well. These cards will
then be collected by staff and then given to the League of Women Voters. They will go
through those cards and then they will be the ones to present those questions, and as
many of those questions as they can to the panelists when we get to the question and
answer period of the program. So, with all that being said, I want to get on to our speakers. 15:55
So itís my pleasure to present the authors of ìTomorrowís Table: Organic Farming, Genetics
and the Future of Food.î First, Raoul Adamchak is an organic farmer and the coordinator at
the University of California Davis student farm. Pamela Ronald is a professor of plant
pathology at the University of California Davis, and directed the grass genetics at
the Joint Bioenergy Institute. Being at what is often considered opposite ends of the farming
spectrum, this husband and wife team not only co-authored a book, but are raising two kids
and sitting down to dinner together and discussing the future of food. I hope that this is a
model for our community, that we can use to begin a civil dialogue about what agriculture
in Boulder County will look like. It is now my pleasure to introduce Pam and Raoul. 16:41 Pamela Ronald
Thank you all for coming today, we appreciate having you here on a beautiful day, and many
thanks to David Bell, heís gone to extraordinary effort to arrange this symposium, and heís
been a terrific host. So thank you very much. So before we start the talk, I wanted to just
run a two-minute movie, because I find it really frames the debate well. (You can hit
the button.) 20:26
And really, this is where Raoul and I began our discussion. And we know through conversation
with friends and colleagues, and family members, that there still remain critical questions
about agriculture, and particularly about genetically engineered crops, and organic
production. Many of our friends have asked us if organic agriculture can produce enough
food to feed the world, and many people have asked us if genetically engineered crops are
safe to eat, and safe for the environment. So, this book is really our response to those
questions, and what we try to do is take the reader into the lives of an organic farmer
and a geneticist, so the reader can find out what we actually do. And also, we try to distinguish
between fact and fiction in the debate on crop genetics and genetic engineering. So,
Iíd like to introduce my husband Raoul, who will begin the talk, and then Iíll jump in
in a little bit. 21:08 Raoul Adamchak
You might think that an organic farmer and a plant geneticist wouldnít have much in
common. But we do, I mean aside from food and the kids and a love of the outdoors, we
also have a sense that agriculture needs to have an ecological basis, needs to be environmentally
sound. The kind of agriculture we have today, we have one where agriculture varies globally,
in the west, we have a very productive agriculture, feeds everyone, food is abundant, relatively
low cost. In Africa and other parts of the developing world, food production is a disaster.
Thereís not enough food being grown, thereís malnutrition, thereís starvation. Both in
the U.S. and Europe, and the rest of the world, there are a lot of harmful pesticides being
applied, there are soluble synthetic fertilizers, nitrogen, being the most commonly applied,
that contaminate the environment, thereís continued soil erosion around the world thatís
taking cropland out of production. On top of that, there are a billion people in the
world that are undernourished now. And we expect, demographers expect another two and
a half billion people in the world that need to be fed in the next 40 years. We also have,
unfortunately, climate change, where itís going to impact agriculture with increased
flooding, and drought. On the left here, those are the Himalayas, and the glaciers are melting
there. They provide water for (I didnít do thatÖ donít know where those lights came
fromÖ.) the glaciers are providing water for much of South Asia, India, China, where
the majority of the worldís population lives and needs to be fed. In Africa, there are
ongoing severe droughts that have impacted agriculture a great deal. And itís going
to get worse. 24:00 California has been a model state in
a few ways; one of which is that they keep track of pesticide use. This is a graph of
millions of pounds of pesticides that have been used in California, roughly for the past
ten years. Over those ten years, there has been 40,000 agricultural acres fewer each
year due to urban development, and yet pesticide use has not gone down significantly over those
years, although there have been a lot of programs that have gotten rid of some of the worst
toxic pesticides. But as you can see, thereís still a tremendous amount used today.
At least in California, those pesticides are used more or less safely, and there are on
average about a thousand pesticide related illnesses every year in California. And itís
also been shown that pesticides cause non-hodgkins lymphoma, can lead to Hodgkinsons disease,
Alzheimers disease, and other diseases of human beings. Pesticides also kill a lot of
beneficial insects and contaminate water, kill fish, and in California theyíre used
largely safely. In developing countries, where 20% of pesticides are used, theyíre not used
particularly safely. This is a Peruvian potato farmer. Heís spraying fungicides on his potatoes.
He has no gloves, he doesnít have a resperator, those are his clothes heís going to wear
home, and as a consequence of practices like this, the World Health Organization estimates
that there are 3 million cases of severe pesticide poisoning a year, that result in 300,000 deaths.
(hmmm, here we go). Fertilizer run off, especially nitrogen, affects agricultural systems in
the U.S. and around the world. This is the Gulf of Mexico, and on the left,
you have a dead ocean, and on the right you have a living ocean. This is caused by nitrogen
runoff from the Midwest that causes eutrophication, algal blooms take off from the nitrogen; microbes
break the algae down, they take all the oxygen out of the water, and you get a big dead zone.
This is a 6,500 square mile dead zone that forms at the mouth of the Mississippi. Itís
one of 200 major dead zones that form in the U.S. And if you thought that nitrogen use
is in decline, it certainly is not, itís been increasing since 1952, and is going to
continue to go up around the world, and I say around the world because, the majority
of nitrogen use these days is in the far east, is in India, China, Bangladesh. We use our
share here in North America, but if we have the environmental problems here that Iíve
shown you, you can imagine whatís going on in Asia at this point. 28:13 The third big environmental problem
generated by agriculture around the world is soil erosion. This is an Iowa farm field
that is headed for the gulf of Mexico. And as a result of erosion, weíre losing 10 million
hectares a year (itís going by itself nowÖ next slideÖ there we go). So as a consequence
of erosion, weíve already lost 30% of arable land. So at a time when we need more land,
for more food to be grown, we have less. This map shows you the very degraded soils around
the world. So with this understanding we have of what the conventional agriculture system
is looking like at this point, Pam and I sat down and thought of criteria for more sustainable
agriculture. And if you did the same thing, you would come up with a similar set, I think,
maybe a few other things. But, the important parts, are that thereís social, economic
and environmental aspects to it all, and Iíve talked about some of the environmental ones:
reducing erosion, reducing soil fertility, clearly we also have to reduce energy use,
for the County, youíre talking about local food security, but itís an issue around the
world. Everyone wants safe and nutritious food, economically, the economics are somewhat
a two-edged sword. You want to have an economically viable farm, and sustainable rural communities,
but you also want to have affordable food. So, as an organic farmer, I think that organic
farming has a lot to contribute to this, toward our goals of sustainable agriculture. And
a lot of them are in the farming practices of organic agriculture. This is my farm at
UC Davis, and you can see itís a diverse in terms of crops, and itís also biodiverse.
We have refuges for insects as well, we use crop rotation, we support our beneficial insects
and augment our beneficial organisms. We use resistant varieties to help avoid diseases,
and as a consequence, our farm, and organic farms as a whole, have been shown to use 97%
fewer pesticides than conventional farms. And this is not to say that we donít have
any crop losses. But weíve been remarkably successful, and I think organic farmers as
a whole have been remarkably successful growing crops with a minimum of crop loss. Thereís
been research done also that organic ag reduces nitrogen leaching out of the soil, depending
on a study from 50 to 80 percent, and also depending on the cropping system. And the
way thatís done is through the use of compost, which helps build soils, but another important
aspect of compost is that it fosters recycling of waste out of both agriculture and urban
environments. In California, it was mandated about in the year 2000, that 50% of the waste
stream that was going into the landfills had to be diverted into something else. And a
big chunk of that turned out to be urban green waste, that is now being made into compost.
Thereís a local producer that processes 1,000 tons of green waste a day out of urban areas,
and the majority of that is going out to farms, out to organic farms, to be used as a nutrient
source. 33:40 The other tool that organic farmers
use are cover crops to build soil, organic matter, to add nitrogen. This is a crop that
grows over the winter in California. Itís vetch and bell beans, and it can fix about
150 lbs. of nitrogen a year per acre. I must say too, that, cover crops are not free, in
that thereís the cost of planting the seed, and thereís the time that the crop has to
be in the ground. In California, itís an ideal place to grow cover crops, because we
have a long winter, the temperatures arenít too cold, and it turns out to be a very good
way to add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. In other parts of the world, where
the winters are colder, or there are dry seasons where things donít grow, then growing cover
crops can be more of a challenge. Thereíve been a number of studies that have shown that
the use of cover crops and compost helps to build soil, and reduce soil erosion. This
is a mix here of cow peas on the left, that we planted as a cover crop over the summer,
and then we have our fall crops, broccoli and kale growing next to that. So, Iíve talked about how organic agriculture
can reduce pesticide use, provide alternatives to soluble synthetic fertilizers, and help
reduce erosion, and so you might ask, well, is that enough, is that all we need to do?
(oops, letís try that again.) Unfortunately, I think the answer to that question is no,
and there are a couple of reasons. There are some pests and diseases and stresses that
are really difficult to control using organic methods. We have problems with nematodes and
many of our soils in California, we have on the farm an obscure pest called synphylums,
very difficult to control, there are viruses, and there really arenít organic ways of controlling.
Of course, there are abiotic stresses that are drought, and flooding, that farming practices
can only impact so far. Also, in organic agriculture, there are some pesticides that are allowed
in the organic system, that if you were going to start from scratch, you might not allow
in, you might not think that they were completely sustainable products. That includes copper
as a fungicide, or sodium nitrate a fertilizer. Theyíre not that benign on the environment. There have been many, many yield studies about
organic agriculture, and I could consolidate them by saying that the studies have shown
that organics systems can yield 45-100% of conventional systems. I was an inspector for
about 10 years in California, inspected a lot of farms, and for the most part, my observations
would be that organic yields are very, very close to conventional yields. But there are
some farms I visited, like rice farms, where yields were commonly 50-80% of conventional,
because of weed problems that the growers were unable to manage. And finally, the last one, the double-edged
sword, I like organic agriculture because itís been able to provide a living for a
lot of farmers, a decent living, but the other side of that is that many times organic food
becomes too expensive for low income consumers. And thatís true here in the U.S., but if
organic food is being grown in developing countries, itís a different economic situation
there. So, this is a slide of ñ itís a little hard to get a grasp on it ñ but this is a
slide of an Ecuadorian hillside, thatís being farmed, and you can see the top there, on
the top, and then to me, the side of this hillside looks vertical. And especially as
a farmer thatís growing in California, on utterly flat ground, this is mind-boggling
to me. But we have a situation in the world where the populationís increasing. We need
more land if weíre going to feed people, unless we can increase yields on the land
that we already have. And itís estimated, that without additional yield increases, with
the population increasing, that weíre going to need a doubling of cropland by 2050. Well,
we donít have a doubling of cropland. It just doesnít exist within the world. So the
food we need is going to have to come from the land we have already under production.
But one pathway, maybe, to help solve this problem, is that presently we have 30-60%
of yield is lost to pest, diseases and environmental stress, so if we can reduce losses, itís
the same as increasing yields. So we have a situation where we need to increase yields,
and we need to do it in an environmentally sustainable way. Plant breeding has been the
traditional method over the years of both increasing yields, and breeding crops that
are resistant to pests. And Pam is now going to talk about modern genetic approaches that
can help us achieve these goals of sustainable agriculture that weíve laid out here. 41:30 Pamela Ronald
So I want to talk about some modern approaches to crop improvement, and in particular, how
scientists have developed new crops through these approaches to reduces losses due to
pest, disease, and environmental stresses. So the first story I want to share with you
is papaya ring spot virus. This is a papaya, and plants, as animals, can be infected by
viral pathogens, and these pathogens can be quite devastating. This shows you, you can
see these little rings, these are called ring spots caused by papaya ring spot virus, and
this is a very severe disease. In fact, in the 1950s, the entire Oahu crop was destroyed
by papaya ring spot virus. This is particularly important to Californians, because all of
our papaya comes from Hawaii. So the farmers had no way to control this disease, no conventional
approach, no pesticide they could spray, no organic approach, and so what they had to
do was move. And they moved to the island of Hawaii, all the papaya orchards. And then,
unfortunately, in 1992, the virus was discovered in Hawaii. And very quickly, the production
started to plummet. And by 1995, the production had dropped 20-fold and papaya growers there
were facing the complete loss of their industry. And these are small farms; many of the farmers
are recent immigrants from the Philipines. So, along came Dennis Gonzales. He is a local
Hawaiian, and he had been very interested in this new concept at that time of genetically
engineered crops. So what he did was take a snippet of a mild strain of a papaya, and
he introduced that into the papaya, and in a way itís like vaccinating the papaya, just
as humans go to get vaccinated once a year for severe diseases, this is conceptually
similar and has the potential to eradicate certain diseases as weíve almost eradicated
polio and smallpox. So this was an extremely successful project. (I think itís getting
ahead of itself hereÖ soÖ I want to go to this slide, thank you.) So this shows you
ñ I should say this project was funded by the USDA, a nonprofit agency, for about a
cost of $60,000, so this was many years ago before there were very expensive regulatory
requirements, you know the regulation was basically OK, you put a fence around your
field, which is what he did. So you can see the transgenic papayas grown here on the center
and on the outside here is the conventional papaya. This is a natural field inoculum.
All the farms in the area look like this and the transgenic virus can carry any small snippet
of viral protein, and it looks like this. And I should mention, you can eat the papaya
thatís infected with the ring spot virus, but it has a lot of viral proteins and RNA,
and the main problem of course is for the farmer, who canít produce much of it. So
this was a very successful project. Today, 80-90% of all Hawaiian papaya is transgenic,
and thereís still no other method to control this disease. So I also wanted to talk about another very
severe pest, this is a cotton boll worm; heís emerging from his boll. And he looks pretty
ferocious, and he is. Itís estimated that 25% of the worldís insecticide is used to
control this single pest. Now this then, is an excellent target for figuring out how to
develop genetic engineering approaches, and geneticists took a page from the organic farmer,
because itís been shown for many years, that thereís a protein call Bt thatís produced
by a bacteria called Baccilus therengensis, thatís very effective for controlling this
particular pest. And itís very specific as well, so it doesnít affect non-target insects.
So, this is, now, geneticists took the gene, and introduced it to many crops, including
cotton, and this is one of the genetically engineered crops thatís grown widely around
the world. This is a farmer in Arizona in his field. Thereís some really fantastic
studies over the past 14 years, showing that an integrated pest management approach is
working very well to reduce insecticides, and also to prevent resistance of the insects
to this toxin. The Bt cotton fields, the farmers in those fields, use half the amount of insecticides
than their neighboring farms growing conventional cotton, and they achieve the same yields.
And itís also been well documented that thereís increased biodiversity as measured by ant
and beetle species richness in these fields compared to conventional fields next door.
And itís not hard to understand why, because when youíre no longer spraying broad spectrum
insecticides, non target insects can flourish. And itís not only in the United States where
this has had a huge effect. This is a farmer in India, and thereís been tremendous increases
in yield in India, and enormous reduction in insecticide uses, and those two combinations
have lead to a very large profit gain and thereís one study showing that these profits
are shared throughout the villages in a variety of ways. So thereís great socieoeconomic
benefits in countries like India. In China, within a couple of years of introducing Bt
cotton, growers were able to reduce about 160 million lbs. of insecticide. This is significant,
so if you recall, Raoul said we use about 180 million lbs in California every year,
just to give you an idea of how much insecticide was reduced. And this reduction in insecticide
correlates with increased health of farmers and their families, and that was published
in Sience a number of years ago. So, I wanted to say that, you know, one common thread in
the debate on crop genetic area I hear again and again, is, well, you know, I donít want
to just use seed, you have to use integrated approaches. And thatís exactly right. You
canít rely on seed to solve all your problems. It doesnít really matter if itís a conventionally
improved seed, genetically improved seed, or genectically engineered seed; seed is seed
and it can only go so far for transforming an agricultural system; you also need to have
very careful farming practices, and thatís been shown for a lot of studies now, particularly
for Bt, and many of these studies were lead by Tabashnik and his colleagues in the University
of Arizona. So for example in China, after these dramatic reductions in insecticide use,
other insects began to increase, and thatís because farmers no longer sprayed these broad
spectrum insecticides, and then there was no way to control these other types of insects
that arose. And theyíve shown in Arizona that other insects can be suppressed by many
different types of management practices, which really proves that you need to integrate the
use of genetically engineered seed with these management practices. And theyíve also shown
globally that you can reduce evolution of insects that are resistant to this toxin by
doing crop rotation, sort of an integrated program, where you plant GE seed next to non-GE
seed. And again, this is true with any type of seed, whether itís genetically engineered
or not. If you reduce the selection pressure, you can reduce the possibility that insects
will evolve resistance. So you really need to integrate the best seed that you that you
have with ecological farming practices. So, I just have one slide on herbicide tolerant
crops. These crops have also been planted very widely throughout the globe, and again
for about 14 years, so thereís a lot of data about how these crops are behaving. They have
really two advantages. Thereís been a shift to the use of less toxic herbicides in these
round-ups, so the use of round-up ready crops that are genetically engineered to confer
resistance to this herbicide round-up, which is considered class 4 non-toxic, and so the
growers can spray to control weeds using this herbicide instead of some of the other herbicides.
Ö. Iím sure the growers in the audience can speak to this. So thereís been Ö less
toxic herbicides, and more importantly as weíve shown in the movie, 30% of greenhouse
gases are from agriculture. So if we can reduce those emissions from agriculture, we can have
really a very huge beneficial impact on the climate, and thereís also Ö showing that
just in the years from 1996 to 2005, the plant of herbicide tolerant crops reduced a huge
amount of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to removing 4 million cars from the road,
this is about 20% of all the cars in England. 51:50 So I wanted to just finish with work
from my lab. Iíve worked on rice for 20 years, and I chose to work on this crop because itís
a staple food for half the worldís people, and any incremental small improvements you
can make in productivity of rice will really have a very large impact on a large number
people. And this just shows you a typical breakfast of a family in Mali. Theyíre cooking
rice porridge. And this is one point I wanted to make. Rice is almost throughout the world,
except perhaps in California, and some of the other large farms in the United States,
is grown on very small farms, of two hectares or less, and this is a family farm in Egypt.
So, importantly, we also need to consider that as the climate changes, large areas of
some countries, including Bangladesh, are expected to be submerged and Bangladeshi people
get two-thirds of their total caloric diet from rice. If you look at these kids in the
field; these plants will survive the flood, but the ones here will not. And thatís because
rice likes to grow in the water, but if itís submerged for more than three days, it will
Ö And this causes severe problems in this area, where subsistence farming is being carried
out. Ö I just wanted to show you; Raoul mentioned the Himalayas, and those , thereís aabout
five rivers that irrigate this entire area of southeast asia. As the climate changes,
thereís increasing flash floods and melting of these glaciers, and itís already creating
problems in these countries. Eastern India, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh. Itís critical
because 25% of the worldís rice is grown in this area, and this is where a huge proportion
of the worldís population is living. (Weíre fighting back and forth about whoís going
to click itÖ). So in Bangladesh and India alone, I was just trying to give you an idea
about just how much rice is lost every year to flooding. Itís estimated that 4 million
tons of rice just in these two countries, enough to feed 30 million people, is just
lost every year to floods. So this has been an important goal for many years, of plant
breeders and plant geneticists to develop new varieties, that can withstand these floods.
And, about 50 years ago, there was an old rice variety, called flood resistant rice,
that was shown to be highly tolerant to submergence. And unlike all modern varieties grown all
over the world, this variety (ummm, would you go back pleaseÖ) this variety is very
tolerant to submergence (would you go back pleaseÖ I think Iíll just say ënext slideí
and then Iíll put this thing down, that might work a little better). And so, what I wanted
to say here is that this has been an important goal, and this particular variety could stay
under water for 14 days, as opposed to 3 days, and then come out alive. So itís almost like
this variety can almost hold its breath under water. The issue though is that this variety
has not been used for 50-100 years, because it has very poor yield, poor taste, and farmers
in Bangledesh and India have rejected it. So the idea was to bring this trait into modern
varieties, locally adapted varieties. Breeders had tried to do this really for about 50 years,
but itís a very complex trait and very difficult to introduce a single gene without bringing
in a lot of other traits. So in conventional breeding, when you do these crosses, you bring
in, you mix large sets of uncharacterized genes, and thereís a lot of genes in this
whole variety that farmers donít want, because it reduces the yield, it reduces flavor, it
doesnít flower at the right time, and so conventional breeding failed to develop a
variety that was acceptable to farmers. So about 10 years ago, I started working with
a rice breeder, whoís now in the international rice breeding research institute, to see if
we could use the modern genetic approaches of gene isolation and genetic engineering
and precision breeding to develop a new rice variety. (Next side please.) And my lab was able to
isolate a gene that confers tolerance to flooding and is called sub1a for the submergence tolerance
1 gene. This shows you some of the experiments in my lab. On the left is the conventional
variety, the non-genetically engineered variety, for submergence. On the right are the two
GE varieties that we developed. So actually Ö .the same genetic background Ö Before
submergence they look fine. Itís really very important, because flooding is unpredictable
So you need to develop a variety that will behave well without floods and when floods
are there. (Next slide please.) So this is what the plants
look like after 16 days of submergence. The conventional variety is all droopy, itís
yellow, itís losing its chloryphyll which is needed for photosynthesis; itís actually
the leaves are elongated and itís a little bit hard to see, but the rice plant is growing
very quickly, itís trying to grow out of the water, but it really doesnít have a chance.
So, the GE variety on the right, are very clever, theyíre just sitting there and thinking,
ëwell, weíre just going to wait until that flooding goes away.í Itís almost like theyíre
holding their breath under water. (Next slide please.) And this is what it looks like seven
days later, after the recovery, and you can see that the conventional variety dies, and
the GE varieties now can re-grow, and can now produce seed. (Next slide please.) So,
my collaborator David McHillÖ, used this basic knowledge, developed through genetic
approaches to introduce this gene using a very precise approach called precision breeding,
or marker assisted breeding, and he was able to introduce this gene into many different
genetic backgrounds. (Next slide please.) And you can see Samba
vs. Samba sub 1. This is a field experiment in the Phillipines after 17 days of submergence,
so you can see the difference between the conventional variety and the new variety,
Ö with the same genetic background called IRIS64. So these were very promising field
tests, under controlled conditions. (Next slide please.) I wanted to give you
a time lapse video, to give you an idea of the power of genetics. And again, this is
in the field, in the Philipines, and this is a time lapse video over 4 months. (If you
click, letís see if this thing runs.) So on the left is the new variety that the team
developed; on the right is the conventional variety; the flood comes, stays for about
1 days, this is the growth after the flood recedes, and now the varieties on the left
are the golden grain that are producing. And this field test the variety Sub1 had three-fold
increase in yield. So I like this slide because it really shows the power of genetics, itís
a very small genetic region, thatís been introduces, and importantly, my collaborator
showed that the field characteristics, which are important to farmers, are completely identical.
So the differences are really only after flooding. (Next slide please.) So, Dave led field tests
in many fields in India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, and what you see, our team visited a couple
years ago, and we visited this group of farmers in India, and on the left you can see the
control field, and on the right, you can see the sworn of sub 1 varieties. And you can
understand then why the farmers are smiling. Theyíre seeing even more dramatic increases
in their fields than weíve seen in control plots. Theyíve seen 3-5 fold increases in
field. This is another site in eastern India, and then on the lower right is in Bangladesh.
And the field tests have been carried out for four years now, and every year the floods
come, and theyíve seen a 4-45 fold increase in yield (next slide please, I have just one
more). We also visited a place in Eastern India called Orissa. (Next slide please.)
And this is a womanÖ so you know, itís typical, the men are out there doing the field testing,
and the women are all in the village, you know, hanging back. So we went over to talk
to them, and it was really a wonderful experience to get their impression of the rice (if you
click, click one more time, one more clickÖ). And so we heard this a lot from farmers, and
this really was a fantastic program led by the International Rice Research Institute,
it was a participatory breeding program, so the scientists were able to talk with the
farmers; the farmers were able to give us their input. (Next slide please.) So thatís really the few examples we wanted
to give you. I hope weíve demonstrated the power of genetics and the power of seed, as
well as the power of farming practices and I wanted to just run through where we are
in plant genetics today, because I often realize that talking to audiences that itís not really
understood whatís going on in the world of biology. So this little plant is called ërabbitopsis;í
itís a model, what we call a model plant. It grows in Petri dishes; you can grow it
from seed to seed in six weeks so you can do lots of genetic experiments and understand
what genes are controlling important stresses. (Next slide please. One more click.) In the
year 2000, the genome sequence was released. This took seven years, $70 million, and 500
people. And one comment I hear really quite often, is ëplant genetics is too expensiveí
and ëletís put the money elsewhereí but technology changes. And just to give you an
example ñ and you know, this is pretty expensive ñ next year the same project is expected
to take two to three minutes and cost $99. And then I have a couple more images you can
click through. And so itís not only the rabbitopsis genome, we have the rice genome. We have the
corn genome. A couple weeks ago, the cocoa genome was released. We have the wheat genome
is being sequenced. And we not only have a single genome from one variety, weíre now
able to explore diverse genetic diversity in many different varieties. And thatís critical,
because there are 80,000 different rice varieties. It has been saved and seed banks. Much of
that biodiversity has been untapped for all the years of breeding because we donít really
understand how to get the genes from those varieties into our modern varieties, and so
thereís a huge push now in plant biology to really tap into that deep genetic reservoir,
and develop plants that can withstand pest, disease and environmental stresses. Next slide.
So I just wanted to have you, for a moment, imagine your children, your grandchildren,
and imagine if we make no changes. If we make no changes to our agriculture. If we think
what we have is good enough, you know, what that would mean for the world as the population
increases. We have not only very little arable land left to farm, we have less water available,
fresh water available now than we had 50 years ago, and thereís no more water now that we
can generate. And so it is really important that people work together. I really admire
what you all are trying to do here, and talk about many of these important aspects of farming,
and see what you do locally will have an affect globally. I think every farming community
needs to be ecologically minded, and productive. Next slide please. And so, this is just a
child, sitting on her bag of rice, and I think Iíll just close by saying, you know, we really
feel, based on the evidence from many many years, that it is very possible to feed the
growing population in and ecological manner, and that we should use the best science based
information, and the best farming practices to accomplish this. So thank you. David Bell. Thank you Pam and Raoul. And right
now weíre going to take our first break. If I could get people back here by 4:30, again
because of the technical problems we had at the beginning of the program, weíre running
a little behind. If our panelists could come up to the stage a little before, that would
be great, and if our techs could come up here and help get these micís set up that would
be appreciated. Thank you.

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