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Speakers honor Steve Tanksley and discuss the role of genomics in agricultural research

Tanksley, Martin, Giovannoni, and McCouch
Tanksley, Martin, Giovannoni, and McCouch

Speaking at the 2016 CALS Liberty Hyde Bailey lecture, SIPS faculty members Susan McCouch, Greg Martin, and Jim Giovannoni described their research interests and the critical role played by Steve Tanksley (SIPS Section of Plant Breeding and Genetics and Plant Biology Emeritus) as mentor and visionary figure in the field of plant genetics.

Specializing respectively in rice genetics, disease resistance in tomato, and fruit ripening, McCouch, Martin, and Giovannoni outlined the dramatic advances in their fields brought about by genome sequence data and increasingly sophisticated tools for genetic manipulation of plants.

The speakers were introduced by Kathryn Boor, Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who followed their presentations with questions about future challenges in agriculture and ability of genome data and technology to provide solutions.  Challenges posed by climate change received particular attention. In response to questions on the role of directed gene transfer and alteration (aka GMOs), the speakers emphasized the importance of these methods for testing hypotheses about gene function.  They also speculated that the precise and targeted manipulations made possible by CRISPR technology might be more readily accepted than transfer of entire genes.  As acknowledged during questions from the audience, food holds a central place in our lives and culture, and perceptions about its purity and “naturalness” often drive consumer preference, despite the long history of plant genetic manipulation by humans.

Complete talks and panel discussion for “Genomics and the Future of Agriculture” can be viewed below. It is also available online. (video shot and edited by Craig Cramer)

Read more:

Boyce Thompson Institute News: BTI faculty honor former advisor, Steve Tanksley

Magdalen Lindeberg

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