University Of California Researchers Call For Changes In Management Of Agricultural And Environmental Resources In 21st Century

January 15, 1999

OAKLAND -- Researchers with the UC Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources (DANR) will discuss their research and perspectives on California's most critical agricultural and environmental issues at the 1999 Annual Meeting and Science Innovation Exposition of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Anaheim, California, Jan. 21-26. Panels featuring these speakers are listed below. To arrange interviews, contact Jill Goetz or Pam Kan-Rice at the addresses above or in the AAAS conference newsroom.

Food and Agriculture:

"Accelerating Crop Evolution for Greater Productivity and Better Biodiversity Conservation"
Saturday, 1/23, 9 a.m.

"This symposium demonstrates the extreme power of biotechnology to locate genes and move them into important food crops," says Calvin Qualset, director of the UC Davis-based Genetic Resources Conservation Program. "At the same time, we show that the tremendous increases in crop productivity required to feed the population of the next few decades will rely on time-honored traditional plant breeding and genetic resources from around the world to build higher-yielding plants as food factories for the next century." Qualset co-organized the panel with Subodh Jain, UC Davis professor emeritus of agronomy, who offers an overview of developments in crop evolutionary sciences. "Biotechnology and the genetic engineering revolution must acknowledge the value of both wild and domesticated genetic resources and their evolutionary origins," he says. Other panelists include UCLA evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond, winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for his book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies; researchers from several other U.S. universities; and researchers with the Mexico-based CIMMYT (International Center for Improvement of Maize and Wheat) and with the Seminis Vegetable Seed Company.

"Genetic Engineering of Food"
Monday, 1/25, 9:30 a.m.

Tomatoes are engineered to retard their spoilage. Dairy cows receive hormones that boost their milk production. In this session, panelists discuss developments in the genetic engineering of food from the perspectives of academia, private industry, consumers and the federal government. Alan B. Bennett, UC Davis associate dean and a specialist in tomato genes, describes the latest developments in genetic engineering of fruit, while Davis professor James Murray summarizes genetic enhancement of livestock. Susanne Huttner, director of UC's Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program, discusses public perceptions of genetically engineered crops. Representatives for Pillsbury, Monsanto and the FDA consider, respectively, food labeling; the future of food and agricultural biotech; and the FDA's approach to biotech and food safety.

"Global and Local Dimensions of America's Food and Agricultural Systems"
Saturday, 1/23, 9 a.m.

How is food distribution changing in California and worldwide? What can be done to make the process more equitable and efficient? David C. Campbell, director of the UC Davis-based California Communities Program, has tracked changes in the state's sustainable agriculture movement over the past two decades. He reviews its political evolution, focusing on the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, the movement's largest nonprofit organization. Once a critic of UC and state policies, the alliance is now a partner with UC and the state in the Biological Integrated Farming Systems program. "BIFS represents a type of public-private partnership that is likely to become more common as we move ahead in agriculture," Campbell says. "It is critical to understand the tensions inherent in such partnerships and how they impact sustainable agriculture organizations and their goals." Other panelists include researchers from Cornell University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture.

Natural Resources Research and Management:

"Water in the West: Investing in Management and Research for the 21st Century"
Saturday, 1/23, 9 a.m.

California agriculture uses 75% of the state's developed water resources, with increasing competition from urban and environmental sectors. In this panel, some key players in state and federal water policy-making outline new strategies for ensuring efficient water resource management in the next century.

Henry J. Vaux Jr., UC associate vice president for agriculture and natural resource programs and chair of the Water Science and Technology Board of the National Research Council, has helped shape water policy in the West for decades. "Water allocation problems in the West are becoming increasingly complicated and difficult to solve," he says. "Our research agenda for water is highly fractionated, with the many state and federal agencies involved often unaware of what the others are doing." A staunch advocate for research into water resources management, he stresses the need for increased cooperation and collaboration among water resource agencies, with more active involvement from agricultural, urban and environmental concerns. Speaking with him is Ted Hullar, director of Cornell University's Center for the Environment, who is spearheading the National Water Initiative, a federal effort that would sponsor water resources research.

UC Davis agricultural economist Richard Howitt discusses privatization of water supply and wastewater treatment services. "Increasingly, politically acceptable strategies involve water reallocation rather than new dam development," he says. "Market mechanisms, which haven't been used to allocate water, are particularly good for this job." For example, he says, the price of water fluctuates widely along California's Interstate 5 corridor -- while the price of gasoline is relatively stable. Water marketing, already practiced in some Western states and recently begun in California's San Joaquin and Imperial valleys, may be the answer to such price inequities, he believes. He describes two pioneering research studies between UC Davis and UC Berkeley, one in which farmers are buying and selling water electronically and another in which students act as buyers and sellers and are paid real money to test different market systems. Also on the panel are Lester A. Snow, director of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program, who outlines the process behind this consortium of agencies; and Bill Mills, general manager of California's Orange County Water District, speaking on trends in water reuse and reclamation in major cities.

"University of California Natural Reserve System: Managing Resources, Preparing for the Future"
Monday, 1/25, 3 p.m.

"The Natural Reserve System is a rich system of 'outdoor laboratories' and 'classrooms without walls,' dedicated to investigation of natural processes and management of the natural environment," says Alexander Glazer, NRS director. Founded in 1965, the NRS includes 33 sites that total more than 130,000 aces and encompass a majority of California's habitat types. Thousands of scientists and students from around the world visit the reserves to study natural, physical and cultural resources. The following UC scientists explain their work at NRS sites:"Grazing Animals and the Protection of Rangelands in California"
Sunday, 1/24, 9 a.m.

Rangelands, expansive ecosystems dominated by grasses or shrubs, occupy approximately 35 million acres of California. Public concern and controversy continue to mount over the environmental impacts of 200 years of livestock grazing on these lands. Some view livestock grazing as a cause of almost every form of environmental degradation; others see it as a tool for protection of biodiversity and open space and as a way to reduce fire hazards. Ranchers, including a representative with the California Cattlemen's Association; university ecologists and public policy experts; and a spokesperson with The Nature Conservancy explore the political and ecological dimensions of grazing on California rangelands. Lynn Huntsinger and Sally Fairfax, faculty at UC Berkeley, provide background for several case studies to be presented. Huntsinger describes her research, which tests the idea that ranching as a form of resource management can play a part in landscape conservation. Fairfax reviews the changing perceptions of the ranch -- long a focus of environmental criticism, based on allegations of water pollution and harm to wildlife habitat, but increasingly a focus of open space preservation. She discusses how these changing perceptions are affecting decision-making processes regarding land management and offering new challenges and opportunities for ranchers. UC Davis professor Montague Demment is the panel discussant.

"Powerful Forces in Small Packages: Harnessing the Microbial World"
Sunday, 1/24, 9 a.m.

UC Berkeley Professor Norman Pace, a world-renowned expert on microbial evolution and diversity, describes recent revelations about microbial evolution and diversity, as part of this special two-day seminar. Pace pioneered the use of a powerful molecular genetic technique that allows scientists to assess, for the first time, the vast diversity of bacteria and related species. He and colleagues have discovered hundreds of new microbial species in a single mineral pool in Yellowstone National Park. "We have to find out about these natural microbial communities," says this engaging speaker and popular professor. "They're running the planet. It's fundamental to our understanding of what makes the biosphere function."
-end-


University of California - Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources

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