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The UC Davis-McLaughlin Reserve's next science lecture will take place on Saturday, Feb. 21 and explore the issues surrounding genetically engineered (GE) foods.
Dr. Peggy Lemaux, Cooperative Extension specialist with the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, will present “Genes, Genomes and Genetics: Our Plants and Foods Past, Present, Future” from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Genes are sets of instructions that determine an organism’s characteristics, like the size of the fruit or the shape of the seed. Together all of the instructions make up the genome, and the study of these instructions – how they change and how they are inherited from generation to generation – is known as genetics.
Plants and their genes have changed over centuries through modifications in their genetic information (mutations) and by classical breeding and selection. More recently genetic engineering has been used to introduce genes.
In 2007, commercialized GE varieties were planted on over 280 million acres worldwide, both in developed and developing countries. For many farmers and consumers worldwide, planting and eating GE crops and their products are acceptable and even welcomed; for others they raise issues related to food and environmental safety and social and economic impacts.
Understanding how these crops are created, their usefulness in addressing research and agricultural problems, and the potential positive and negative consequences of their use can provide perspective in deciding on their utility in today’s agricultural systems.
Research in the laboratory of Dr. Peggy Lemaux has focused on using genetic engineering and genomic technologies to understand and improve crops. These efforts include creation of barley grain with improved starch characteristics for brewing, a hypoallergenic wheat for consumers with wheat allergies and, most recently, nutritional enhancement of sorghum for Africa with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Besides research, her position involves talking with the public about issues relating to plants, agriculture, food production and new genetic technologies.
Dr. Lemaux is active in researching and addressing both the potential positive and negative impacts of growing and consuming GE crops and foods. Her background allows her to approach both scientific and societal implications with a broad perspective.
Attend Dr. Lemaux's presentation to learn more about the science of genetic engineering and how scientists address issues related to use of new agricultural technologies.
The UC Davis-McLaughlin Reserve is located at 26775 Morgan Valley Road, 13 miles east of Lower Lake.
For more information contact Cathy Koehler or Paul Aigner, reserve managers, at 995-9005, e-mail