Biotechnology conference slated June 4-6 at George Bush Library

Expert: Transgenics could head off ‘the end of orange juice’

COLLEGE STATION — Key players will converge on Texas A&M University June 4-6 to chart the course for the release of improved fruits and vegetables designed to head off deadly plant diseases and lead the world to a second Green Revolution, according to Dr. Bill McCutchen, executive associate director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

Dr. Erik Mirkov, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist, has developed a transgenic citrus tree resistant to citrus greening disease. It is one of many fruits and vegetables improved through biotechnology to be discussed at the upcoming North American Agricultural Biotechnology Council conference June 4-6 in College Station. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

Dr. Erik Mirkov, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist, has developed a disease-resistant transgenic citrus tree. It is one of many fruits and vegetables improved through biotechnology to be discussed at the upcoming North American Agricultural Biotechnology Council’s 25th annual conference June 4-6 in College Station. (AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

The North American Agricultural Biotechnology Council’s 25th annual conference, “Biotechnology and North American Specialty Crops: Linking Research, Regulation and Stakeholders,” will be held at the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M, College Station.

Stakeholders, including scientific researchers, government officials and industry leaders, will gather to discuss the role of biotechnology and regulatory policy in improving agriculture to continue feeding a growing world population, according to McCutchen.

“Recent coverage in the national news media is reporting the very real possibility of the end of orange juice, due to citrus greening, an incurable plant disease that’s ravaging the Florida citrus industry,” McCutchen said. “But biotechnology has overcome that so-called incurable disease in a way traditional plant breeding cannot.”

By moving genetic material from spinach to citrus, Dr. Erik Mirkov, an AgriLife Research scientist in South Texas, has developed a citrus tree resistant to citrus greening, McCutchen said.

“And that’s just one example,” he said. “Through the use of biotechnology, scientists have developed improved, transgenic varieties of apples, pineapples, potatoes, squash and other specialty crops with disease resistance and other favorable traits.”

Fruits and vegetables are the next wave of transgenic food crops that will provide a way to help producers keep pace with world population growth, McCutchen said.

“This conference will link those scientists working in biotechnology throughout North America with industry leaders and individuals in regulatory agencies to get these products to consumers so we don’t wake up to a morning some day without orange juice or other food products that keep us healthy.”

Keynote speakers include Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples; Roger Beachy, president emeritus, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, Mo.; and Brett Giroir, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, Texas A&M University System.

Some 20 speakers, made up of CEOs, directors and officials of private enterprise, public policy groups, major universities, producers and government agencies will address the conference on their perspectives on moving transgenic plant material from the laboratory and research field plots to consumers.

For a complete list of speakers, go to the conference website at http://nabc25.tamu.edu/ .

A panel discussion will be led by Steve Pueppke, associate vice president for research and graduate studies, Michigan State University. Panelists include McCutchen; Tony Shelton, professor, department of entomology, Cornell University; Gregory Jaffe, director, Biotechnology Project Center for Science in the Public Interest; and Neal Carter, president/founder, Okanagan Specialty Fruits.

Registration is $350; student registration is $175. Participation is limited to the first 300 registrations.

To register go to https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/events/details.cfm?id=1213 .

For more information, contact Rusty Carter at 979-845-4272 or email Rusty.Carter@tamu.edu .

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