CA&ES Currents Newsletter  icon newspaper

November 01, 2002

Jun 05, 2014 admin

A Message from Dean Neal Van Alfen: Agricultural Biotechnology

The mission of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council (NABC) is to provide a forum for an open and candid discussion of agricultural biotechnology issues. The organization is a not-for-profit consortium of 36 leading agricultural research and teaching governmental entities in the U.S. and Canada. UC Davis has been a founding member since the group’s inception in 1988. As the NABC chairperson for 2002-2003, I recently wrote a column in the group’s newsletter that touched on some key issues. “It can be fairly asked whether we, the members of NABC, primarily universities involved in agricultural biotechnology, can be truly open minded about this technology when we stake so much of our research portfolio on its success. Thus, it is important to clarify the role of universities with agricultural programs -- and that of the NABC -- in the debate over public health safety and environmental safety of agricultural biotechnology. I believe that universities need to take a position regarding one aspect of the debate about agricultural biotechnology. That is, we need to confidently affirm our intent to alter nature for the betterment of humanity. This is necessary because as education and research institutions we have a strong bias toward pushing back the current boundaries of knowledge with the resultant development and adoption of new technology. Meanwhile, probably the clearest example of how universities differ from private companies is the, at times vilifying, public debates among faculty members of our universities over research claims and speculations. Such public debate by employees of the same company would not be tolerated, but it is one of the most cherished rights of a university faculty. Our research interests are so divergent, including production agriculture, organic farming, rural social issues, and environmental issues, that no single vision or voice can dominate our discussions. As universities, we must encourage the use of the best technology available to meet the challenges of a continually increasing human population that needs to extract food, fiber, shelter, transportation, recreation, and spiritual renewal from the finite resources provided by our planet. Agricultural biotechnology offers considerable promise in meeting these goals. So, the answer is yes, universities should have a bias in the outcome in the open forum regarding agricultural biotechnology. We exist to educate and to help society explore the unknown. The question of whether we should use technology to change old ways of doing things, in general, was answered centuries ago.”

You can view a condensed version and the entire articleonline

Neal K. Van Alfen
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
[email protected]

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Eduardo Blumwald Discusses Hearty Tomatoes
Eduardo Blumwald, professor in the pomology department, was quoted in the Washington Post about his research into tweaking the genes of tomatoes, rice and alfalfa to withstand salty conditions. Using genes from the Arabidopsis plant, the modified crops are able to shunt salt into storage cavities, allowing the plant to thrive in otherwise impossible conditions. Because salts often build up on irrigated land, the technology could be useful in the vast farmlands of central California and Arizona. "This is revolutionary technology," said Blumwald, whose creations are being field tested by a small company in California. "But for it to work, we need to marry it to the discipline of the plant breeders. What we need is transformed transgenic plants in the background of varieties that have already shown promise in the field."

More information is availableonline

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Marion Miller Honored for Mentoring
Marion Miller, professor in the environmental toxicology department, was one of four instructors honored by the UC Davis Consortium for Women and Research for outstanding achievement in mentoring women students and post-graduate scholars. The awards honor Academic Senate and Academic Federation members and include $1000 towards research support. The primary criterion for the award is evidence of sustained and successful mentoring that advances the consortium's mission to promote women's research and creative work at UC Davis. Nominations are made by graduate students, post-docs, undergraduate researchers, and the mentor's colleagues.

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Clyde Elmore Receives Agricultural Award
Clyde Elmore, a weed scientist in the vegetable crops department, received the California Agricultural Production Consultants Association’s Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture award for 2002. Elmore’s commitment to the agricultural industry through his personal and professional endeavors was cited. The Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture award was first given in 1979. This award recognizes those individuals who have made a significant contribution to California agriculture.

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ESA Recognizes Frank Zalom
Frank Zalom, specialist in the Cooperative Extension and entomology department, received the 2002 Recognition Award from the Entomological Society of America (ESA). The purpose of this award is to recognize entomologists who have made significant research contributions to agriculture. To be eligible, a nominee must document significant contributions to agricultural advancement through work in the field of entomology. Zalom also received the Entomological Society of America's Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension in 1992.

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Gail Feenstra and Desmond Jolly on Farmers Markets
Gail Feenstra and Desmond Jolly discussed the rise of farmers markets in a Fresno Bee article. Feenstra is a food systems analyst in the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and Jolly is the director of the UC Small Farm Center. "Access to farmers markets is quite limited, quite rationed," said Jolly. "In California, most markets are oversubscribed, and there is a waiting list. Market management has to decide if what is produced is complementary to what they have, if you're bringing something new, looking for that product mix. They are fairly saturated."

Read the full articlehere

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AAAS Fellows Selected
Three faculty members from CA&ES were elected fellows in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). They include David Gilchrist, professor of plant pathology; Richard Michelmore, professor of vegetable crops; and Barbara Schneeman, nutrition professor. The five recipients from UC Davis were among 291 scientists who were elevated this fall to the rank of fellow for their contributions to science. AAAS publishes the journal Science and is the world's largest federation of scientists, with more than 143,000 members and 276 affiliated societies. The new fellows will receive certificates and blue-and-gold rosette pinsthe colors at the AAAS annual meeting Feb. 15 in Denver.

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Impact Statements
IMPACT is a series of publications highlighting how UC Davis’ College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences makes a difference in the lives of Californians. Through research, teaching and outreach programs, UC Davis research touches almost all aspects of Californian life. Today, millions of people eat safer foods, breathe cleaner air and drink healthier water with the help of our researchers. We’re making discovery work -- for California and the world. Please see links below for recently published IMPACT sheets.

Protecting Lake Tahoe – 6/2002
Nurturing Infants and Mothers – 7/2002
Cultivating California's Vineyards – 9/2002
Foods for Better Health – 10/2002
Monitoring Sudden Oak Death – 11/2002

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Understanding Organic Standards
The implementation of national organic standards on Oct. 21 may send U.S. farmers and consumers looking for clarification on what constitutes "organic." One source of information is the University of California's statewide Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP). SAREP's Web site provides links to the national rules for organic farming, allowed inputs, and alternatives to pesticides and herbicides that cannot be used by organic growers. "We know growers and consumers are looking for answers. Our program's Web site with its research and information databases can point them to specific resources," said Sean Swezey, SAREP director.

SAREP online

Sean L. Swezey
[email protected]
(530) 752-2379, (408) 459-4367

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Tumors Delayed by Red Wine Component
Catechin, a potent antioxidant found in red wine, successfully delayed tumor formation when fed to mice that are predisposed to developing tumors, report researchers. This finding supports earlier research indicating that diet can play an important role in preventing certain types of cancer. Furthermore, the study suggests that different food-processing methods may significantly affect the preventive qualities of wines and other foods and beverages. Results from this study will be reported in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study, conducted by Susan Ebeler, professor in the viticulture and enology department, and Andrew Clifford, professor in the nutrition department, focuses on the effects of dietary catechin, one of a group of compounds called polyphenols that are found in some plant-based foods. Polyphenols are thought to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer by preventing oxidation, a process that has been linked to narrowing of the arteries, blood-clot formation and tumor growth. "This study builds on a growing body of evidence indicating that certain foods and beverages derived from plants may help prevent some forms of cancer," said Ebeler. “Our data suggest that dietary levels of specific polyphenol compounds like catechin, rather than total polyphenol concentrations, may be critical in this protective mechanism."

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Increased Fiber Diminishes Women’s Appetite
Fiber content in a meal boosts feelings of fullness in women and increases levels of a certain hormone associated with satiety. Previous research has shown that the hormone cholecystokinin is released from the small intestine when a fat-containing food is eaten. It's thought that this hormone may be the chemical messenger that acts in response to fat to notify the brain that the body is getting full. Now it appears that fiber can trigger the same signaling mechanism as fat. In an effort to better understand cholecystokinin's role, the UC Davis researchers decided to test how levels of the hormone respond to increases in dietary fat and fiber, and how that hormonal response corresponds to feelings of satiety. "These results indicate that the addition of fiber to a meal can increase a person's feeling of being full," said Barbara Schneeman, a nutrition professor, who led the study.

Barbara Schneeman
Department of Nutrition
[email protected]
(530) 752-0133

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Organic Milk Production Cost
A recent study by UC Davis scientists measured the cost of organic milk production, and in particular, the differences in cost of production between organic and conventional milk in California. Results showed that the total cost of production on a per cow and a per hundredweight basis is about 10 percent higher for organic producers than for conventional producers in the surveyed regions, and about 20 percent higher when compared on a statewide basis. The higher costs appear to be due to reduced milk production, higher feed costs, higher average labor costs, significantly higher herd replacement costs and significant transition costs. The higher costs associated with organic milk production are exacerbated to some extent by lower milk yields, and at the same time, are mitigated by the substitution of lower cost pasture for higher priced roughage and concentrate feeds. The higher prices paid for organic milk may more than offset these higher costs compared to their regional, same-sized neighbors.

More information is availableonline

Leslie J. Butler
Dairy Specialist and Lecturer
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
[email protected]
(530) 752-3681

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James Meyer Memorial Service
A memorial service for Chancellor Emeritus James Meyer will be held on Friday, Dec. 6, from 10:30 a.m. to noon in Mondavi Center's Jackson Hall. A reception will follow in the hall's Grand Tier Lobby. Meyer, who guided UC Davis, during its greatest period of unrest, change and growth and who was recognized as a leader in the adaptation of management theory and techniques to higher education, died Saturday, Oct. 12, after a lengthy illness. Meyer, 80, served as chancellor from 1969 to 1987. Meyer’s family asks that those wishing to make memorial contributions consider a donation to benefit students in the UC Davis Department of Animal Science or to augment the performing arts center's endowment. Checks for the animal science program can be payable to "UC Regents" in memory of James H. Meyer and directed to the Animal Science Memorial Fund, c/o the Department of Animal Science, UC Davis, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616. Checks for the arts endowment can be made out to "UC Davis Foundation" in memory of James H. Meyer and sent to the Development Office, UC Davis, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616.

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CIFAR Conference
The California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research (CIFAR) held a conference titled “Adding Value to Plant Polysaccharides and Polyphenolics,” on Oct. 28. Held in the AGR room of Buehler Alumni Center, the conference will illustrate how scientific advances can lead to better utilization of forestry, food and fiber resources. Examples were presented of how these resources are used for production of food and animal feed ingredients, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, materials, fuels and energy. The overall approach begins with an understanding at the molecular level. Several examples of practical research aimed at these goals will be presented by representatives of Cargill, Genencor International, and Novozymes Biotech. Call (530) 752-2922 for registration information.

Suanne Klahorst
Associate Director
California Instituite of Food and Agricultural Research
[email protected]
(530) 752-5686

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Rivers and Tides Film
The film “Rivers and Tides” about the British environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy will be shown Nov. 21. Since its first showing at the 2002 San Francisco International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Gate Award Grand Prize for Documentary, the film has received unanimous praise for its portrait of Goldsworthy and his art. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Varsity Theatre, 616 2nd Street, Davis. The Landscape Architecture Program is sponsoring the film in honor of Professor Emeritus Robert L. Thayer, Jr. Tickets are available at Armadillo Music, 205 F Street, Davis.

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Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety Seminar
The Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety will hold a seminar Friday, Nov. 1, 2002. The title for the presentation is "The Role of Iron in the Biological Effects of Inhaled Particles,” and the featured speaker is Ann Aust, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Utah State University. The seminar will be held from 12:10 p.m. to 1 p.m. at the TB 137 on campus.

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CA&ES Currents, the faculty/staff newsletter of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis, is distributed every other Friday. News deadline is noon Monday preceding Friday publication. Send inquiries to Ann Filmer, [email protected]



Issue Editor:


Clifton Parker

(530) 752-6556

[email protected]



Contributors: Donna Gutierrez, Thomas Kaiser, Susan Kancir, Rhoda McKnight, Neal Van Alfen, John Weston.


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