In the Sacramento/Davis area, more than 30 centers or institutes on the University of California, Davis campus that engage in research related to food, nutrition and health soon will be united. Roger Beachy has been hired by UC Davis to be the director of the new World Food Center, says an October 31, 2013 UC Davis news release, "Roger Beachy to head new World Food Center at UC Davis."
He's well-known in the agricultural community for his support of the use of genetic modification (GMO) to produce disease-resistant crops. Getting rid of agro-chemicals sprayed on plants and creating more jobs is one goal that scientists in general may be looking for. But consumers who eat the food and look for what's affordable may be looking locally for organic produce that's safe, clean, and available.
Investigative reporters will love this news. But what the science world doesn't like is when investigative journalists who are not scientists and not agriculturists pop up with an ethics question on safety or look at data from consumer complaints about adverse reactions to GMO.
The World Food Center at the University of California, Davis takes a ‘big picture’ approach to sustainably solving humanity’s most pressing problems in food and health. By bringing together world-class scientists with innovators, philanthropists and industry and public leaders, the center will generate the kind of visionary knowledge and practical policy solutions that will feed and nurture people for decades to come.
UC Davis innovations have already changed the way society feeds people and protects their health
Through the World Food Center, UC Davis offers faculty expertise that takes a comprehensive approach to the issues. The university’s top-ranked research in the agricultural, environmental, health, life and physical sciences, business, the social sciences and the humanities provides a strong interdisciplinary foundation for a successful center. But what's its attitude toward GMO foods compared to organic produce?
UC Davis is the one university — the one team of experts — ideally positioned to shape the future of food in California and around the world, notes the site, "World Food Center: Home - the University of California, Davis." Those who watch the watchers are asking who's really going to shape the future of food in Sacramento and the rest of California? The answer is follow the money because behind the research is the need for funding.
Which is safer, putting the pesticide/herbicide/insecticide inside the seed of an edible vegetable or fruit, or spraying chemicals on the plants, which gets into the air, water, and soil, and you in a hurry so you can have your allergic/adverse reaction?
If you check out the November 1, 2013 Sacramento Bee news article, "Beachy named director of new World Food Center at UC Davis," In an interviw with Roger Beachy, 69, the new plant biologist Roger who will head the UC Davis’ new World Food Center, starting January 1, 2013, Beachy tells the Sacramento Bee that he has criticized the chemical industry quite a lot. Beachy's salary will be $212,000 a year for an 80 percent work schedule, according to UC Davis spokesman Keith Sterling.
Going with genetics every time better than chemicals? What are the attitudes of mainstream media?
Beachy states, in the Sacramento Bee news article, "If I have a choice between chemicals and genetics, I will go with genetics every time. I come from a position that says we have a lot to gain from science. At the center, we will not favor one science or one technology over another – knowledge is what we’ll be generating." If you look at the investigative media, mainstream media may have an attitude of GMO as safe, whereas the niche or natural foods media may have varying attitudes that organic produce is best without chemical sprays and without GMOs that put the bug poisons and herbicides into the seeds so you can't wash off the chemicals.
It amounts to what's safest for the public. But who has the most clout, those with the most money to fund research or those demanding safety with little power and less money, except to vote or sign petitions? Many people feel powerless, and others travel far to find organic produce and pay the higher prices at local natural food markets.
Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi picked a leader with close ties to agribusiness, science and Washington, D.C. Beachy’s selection, announced Thursday October 31, 2013, underscores how seriously the University of California, Davis is taking its World Food Center plans, which include the anticipated development of a $100 million endowment to unite more than 30 centers or institutes on campus that engage in research related to food, nutrition and health.
Beachy, recently served in the Obama administration as the first director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a post he held from 2009 until 2011
It was in the 1970s, as a scientist at Washington University, that Beachy made a first successful foray into genetic engineering. An effort with food giant Monsanto and other universities to protect the tomato plant from the tomato mosaic virus led to the creation of the world’s first genetically modified food crop.
The new food center at UC Davis will involve the 30 centers in food and agriculture and sustainability. Technology will help as well as a tie in the medical school as well as nutritionists and plant breeders and agronomists. Think linkages. The chancellor has targeted – during the next three to seven years – building a separate endowment for the center of $100 million. The idea is to have a project-driven situation.
As for Monsanto's involvement, wheat, soy, and cotton aren't local produce or major crops in the Sacramento/Davis area. But more than 400 crops are grown locally. What type of investor will be coming in? Beachy told the Sacramento Bee in the article, Beachy named director of new World Food Center at UC Davis, that it is hoped that multinationals like "DuPont and Monsanto seed companies come and talk to us."
If you look at the Sacramento Bee news article, you can read for yourself that Beach states in the Sacramento Bee interview that, " If I have a choice between chemicals and genetics, I will go with genetics every time." But in the same paragraph Beachy tells the Sacramento Bee that "At the center, we will not favor one science or one technology over another – knowledge is what we’ll be generating."
And so, knowledge it is. According to the October 31, 2013 UC Davis news release, "Roger Beachy to head new World Food Center at UC Davis," Roger Beachy will be charged with linking transformative research with partnerships to address challenges and opportunities at the intersection of food, agriculture and health. The UC Davis news release mentions Beachy is an acclaimed plant biologist and has been named founding director of the new World Food Center at the University of California, Davis.
Beachy, internationally known for his scientific leadership and groundbreaking research related to disease-resistance in crops, will assume the new position Jan. 1, 2013
“Roger Beachy brings the perfect blend of scientific acumen, experience and vision that are critical for launching the new World Food Center on its proper trajectory,” said UC Davis Chancellor Katehi, according to the UC Davis news release, Roger Beachy to head new World Food Center at UC Davis. “We are delighted to have him join us and quite excited about what he and the center’s future partners will accomplish as they work together to achieve global food security for the next generations.”
The World Food Center, announced by Katehi in March during the international Climate-Smart Agriculture Conference at UC Davis, is intended to increase the economic benefit from campus research; influence national and international policy; and convene teams of scientists and innovators from industry, academia, government and nongovernmental organizations to tackle food-related challenges in California and around the world.
"Based on the history of UC Davis and its role in helping make California agriculture the envy of the world, I believe the World Food Center can make a transformative difference positively influencing food production and consumption here and around the world," said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture in the UC Davis news release. "UC Davis' extensive experience in this area shows what's possible through discoveries and innovations applied in a real-world setting."
UC Regent Fred Ruiz also offered enthusiastic support for Beachy’s leadership of the new center
“As a regent and someone who has spent his life in the frozen food business, I have been excited about Chancellor Katehi’s vision for the World Food Center,” Ruiz said in the UC Davis news release. “Now, under Roger Beachy’s leadership, the center truly has the potential to help keep California in the forefront of providing products and technology that help feed and nourish the world, offering tremendous economic value to our state.”
“UC Davis is one of the very few universities in the world equipped to address global food challenges in a comprehensive manner,” Beachy explained in the UC Davis news release. “Agriculture must provide food for an anticipated global population greater than 9 billion people by the year 2050, including roughly 12 million more people right here in California,” he said in the news release.
“To do that — while safeguarding the food supply and the environment, and energizing the economy — we must draw on the expertise of agricultural scientists, veterinary- and human-health professionals, nutritionists, ecologists, engineers, economists and business management experts — all of whom you will find right here on the Davis campus.”
Beachy noted that UC Davis has the added advantage of being geographically located in California’s Central Valley — the nation’s most productive agricultural region, which drives the state’s $43.5 billion annual farm economy
Surrounding UC Davis, the Sacramento region is increasingly becoming a hub for agricultural and food companies, spanning technology-development, processing and production industries. “We will be looking to such industry leaders as we identify key partners and develop a real team approach for the World Food Center,” Beachy said in the news release. He noted that the center’s first year would be devoted to developing such partnerships and focusing on the challenges and opportunities that the new center should address first.
Beachy, an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the 2001 recipient of the prestigious Wolf Prize in Agriculture, currently serves as the founding executive director and CEO of the Global Institute for Food Security in Saskatchewan, Canada. He was appointed in 2009 by President Obama as the first director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, where he served until 2011. From 1999 to 2009, Beachy was the founding president and director of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a not-for-profit, plant science research center near St. Louis, Missouri.
He headed the plant biology division at The Scripps Research Institute from 1991 to 1998, where he was a professor and the Scripps Family Chair in Cell Biology, as well as co-director of the institute’s International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology.
From 1979 to 1991, he was a biology faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis, and served as director of the university’s Center for Plant Science and Biotechnology.
Beachy holds a doctoral degree in plant pathology from Michigan State University, and was an adjunct professor from 1992 to 2005 at Peking University, Beijing, China, and from 1997 to 1999 at UC Riverside
The problem consumers worry about is the attitude of scientists in general toward the vast public with little or no knowledge of scientists who raise questions on the safety of GMO foods, especially GMOs the public is told that have the pesticides inside the seeds so that it won't be necessary to spray agricultural chemicals on the outside of the plants. After all, sprayed toxins get into the air, soil, and water when sprayed from the outside. But when inside the seed, are resistant to many types of pests.
What consumers worry about is who's looking out for the local area's organic agriculture businesses and who's looking out for the major funders and investors of research and/or corporate agriculture? The media often acts as the middle person, the investigative reporter, who checks for safety issues that sometimes get overlooked or put on the back burner for long spans of time due to lack of funding, staff, or other resources. Some scientists don't like the average consumer to bring up questions about safety if the government says something is safe. And on the other side of the coin is whether or not various projects from time to time get funded by the major corporations selling the agricultural chemicals or the GMO seeds.
Consumers also ask whether the government and the major corporations work together. Most consumers worry foremost about safety and where they can find affordable organic produce without toxins and herbicides in the seeds of plants that have been genetically changed. Growing one's own food in public or rented urban gardens is seasonal for most. Those most at risk are apartment dwellers who must buy produce as close to home as they can afford. As for those who watch the watchers, check out, "Monsanto and the Campaign to Undermine Organics - SourceWatch," "GM crops alter structure and function of liver," and "Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods."
The question consumers ask is whether or not science has an attitude against those not in science who are concerned with safety. After all, science without the ethics behind control is blind, and investigative journalists without science behind the ethics are somewhat blind. So who's going to win? Follow the money. Who's funding the research? Who's funding the investigative media?
Who's funding the government? Who's funding much of the research? And who's watching as well as following scientists? In the end, both corporate America and the government as well as scientists also follow consumers opinions on safety. You need a well-rounded picture when safety comes first. For more information, you may wish to check out the website of the World Food Center at the University of California, Davis.