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Boulder County Presents: Sustainable Agriculture Forum
November 6, 2010 Silver Creek High School
Part 1: Keynote address
Cindy Domenico: Good afternoon everyone, we are so happy that you are all here today.
Want to say welcome to all of you. And also we are honored to have our panel, who will
be speaking with us and are here to help us kick off dialogue about our cropland policy.
Iím one of the County Commissioners. My colleague Ben Pearlman is here; Will Toor will join
us a little bit later. We just have a couple things weíd like to share with you before
we start the program. For those of you who have been around Boulder County for a long
time, you know that agriculture is a very important industry here in the county, and
there is a long history of agriculture here in Boulder County. The two biggest industries
were farming and mining, and particularly my family, we came here because of all the
farming and mining in the early 1880s for farming. And that farmland, for us, is near
Lafayette, was an 80 acre farm, was a diversified operation for many years, and about three
families went through some trying times in the 1920s and 1930s and 1940s. Itís still
a farm at the moment, but as you know itís very difficult to keep farmland in the Front
Range. And so, the mining aspect is a little bit different, there was a lot of coal mining
and that sort of thingÖ the two industries went hand in hand over many years, until relatively
recently, and as we looked at agricultural land across the county and over the years,
we noticed that is was disappearing, just like every other place in the Front Range.
And 30 years ago, a group of people put together some great thoughts; they created a Comprehensive
Plan that was focused on preserving at least some of that agricultural land, and preserving
the agricultural lifestyle, so that we donít completely lose our heritage, that this county
grew from. That Comprehensive Plan helped guide the way for us to preserve quite a few
acres here in Boulder County. Actually 25,000 acres, that are currently farmed by small
farmers and ranchers. And just as a (there we goÖ maybe) just as a way to understand
what 25,000 acres looks like, itís around 40 square miles, thatís approximately the
size. Thatís a lot of acreage. And of course, as you know, that land helps buffer our cities,
it helps keep our towns and municipalities independent from one another, it contributes
to the quality of life here in Boulder County in huge ways; makes a huge difference. So
we know weíre on the right track with that Comprehensive Plan, with the open space strategies
that we have; putting our efforts into preserving farmland. And certainly in preserving the
agricultural way of life.
2:50 But as we look at those 25,000 acres, particularly
in regard to some discussions that happened last year, we realize that we need to talk
about the cropland policies and strategies that we want to have in place in Boulder County
going into the future. How should those 25,000 acres of farmland be farmed? And last year,
a very long discussion happened around sugarbeets, what kind of sugarbeets should be grown, and
what it means if you donít grow them or if you do grow them. And so that has led us to
looking at a framework need for a cropland policy, that is why we are creating a cropland
policy advisory committee, to help us work through the process. That group will examine
all the issues and lay out
the framework for how decisions will be made in the future around our cropland usage in
the open space acres that we have. And weíre excited to kick off the dialogue, have a long
discussion about it; it was one of the most challenging hearings I think weíve ever been
in, certainly for me. I had been in the office for about two years before we jumped into
this discussion, and it looks into about every aspect of human life into the discussion that
you could think of, and some of you have probably already thought about that. But thatís part
of why weíre here today, to start talking about what that framework should look like,
and weíre very happy that youíre here to share in the dialogue.
Ben Pearlman: And Iíll just add, that I think it goes without saying, that food is important
to all of us, as are our landscapes, the quality of our environment, and this set of discussions
concerns all of that, and weíre lucky enough to be in a position in Boulder County where
we have over the last couple of decades, preserved this 25,000 acres of land and we have the
opportunity to decide how itís going to be managed. And I think thatís something thatís
very different than most communities across the Front Range, and I think weíre very lucky
to be in this position. Nonetheless, it is a challenging set of issues, and our goal,
as a county, is to come up with a path towards sustainable agriculture for the county. We
need to have these agricultural lands be productive on into the future, and not just for the values
that they provide for wildlife on the edges and the value for buffering between communities,
but our food. We believe that local food is going to a tremendous part of the future in
Boulder County. People want to be able to consume, eat food that is grown locally and
healthfully, and I think itís our obligation to try to work towards that as fast as we
possibly can. At a minimum, that means a few things. First, it means a commitment to continue
funding the open space program, of the filling out the gaps within our agricultural lands,
it means looking at our agricultural infrastructure, which always needs additional funding as far
as I can tell from our agricultural managers, but thatís everything from the ditches and
flumes and center pivot irrigation systems that allow the water to flow because again,
in the arid west, irrigation is tremendously important. Itís also processing facilities,
and other ways for farmers to add value to the crops that they grow, and I think we have
a lot of work to do on that as well. Itís also finding ways to allow farmers to grow
more organic crops on Boulder County open space lands, itís trying to grow farmers
themselves. We have some programs in place, and weíre working very hard to try to teach
farmers what they need to know in order to run these small farms, market farms, and be
successful at it. And then, of course, we need to do what we can as we manage these
lands to make available those opportunities to be able to lease out small parcels of land
that have the available water rights so that people can create something remarkable on
those landscapes. So, I think itís one of the most exciting things we do; I think weíre
very lucky to be in this position; weíre also very lucky that just a couple days ago
we had another open space ballot measure pass, by a very narrow margin, but this means that
we will have resources going into the future to be able to bolster and invest in our agricultural
infrastructure and in these lands. And so my thanks go out to the voters of Boulder
County and we appreciate their support in what has been a very tough last couple of
years in the local economy. Weíre very fortunate. Well with that said, we have some great people
to hear from; I think this, what weíre doing today, and what weíve been doing over the
last number of years, is I think, the last thing I wanted to mention, which is the engagement
of the public in how we manage our lands is tremendously important and weíre deeply grateful
to you for being here today. This a joint project, itís a community project, these
are all of our lands and how we manage them matters to all of us, so weíre just glad
that weíre going to have these kinds of discussions, and have a citizen advisory board for the
cropland policy to work with staff on developing that, and this is kicking that off, so thanks
to everyone for being here today. Back to David. (applause)
8:12 Well first let me say thanks to the Commissioners
for showing up today and kicking us off, I appreciate that, and then I want to say welcome
to all of you that have given up a beautiful Saturday afternoon in November here in Colorado,
to come here and help us talk about sustainable agriculture here in Boulder County. My name
is David Bell, Iím the agricultural resource manager for Boulder County Parks and Open
Space. And because we have such a great group of speakers here, I donít want to take too
much time, but I think as I heard, even our commissioners talking about some of the terms
that we throw around as far as open space, and organic farming, and some of the history
weíve had here, I just want to ask, how many people have not been part of this conversation
before this forum? So thatís pretty impressive. So, like I said, I want to take a few minutes
to kind of put this forum into context of what weíre trying to accomplish, and also
kind of put the agricultural program in context of Parks and Open Space, because a lot of
times people think about open space programs, theyíre not thinking about agriculture, so
something that is unique, and Boulder County again in leading the way in that. So Boulder
County protects around 95,000 acres through the open space program. 35,000 of that is
through conservation easements. Conservation easements are a program that allows the county
to purchase the development rights of a property. And if you think of a property as being a
bundle of sticks, you can pull out individual sticks from that bundle. You can sell your
mineral rights, you can sell your water rights, you can also sell your development rights.
So the county has leveraged some of its funds by buying just those development rights, and
allowing the family farmers to keep those grounds, and manage them the way they have
throughout their familiesí history. Again, protecting the development of those lands,
because development is held by the citizens of Boulder County. The remaining 65,000 acres
are called ìfee simpleî propertries. This is property that the county has gone out and
found willing sellers, who wanted to negotiate with the county to sell their properties at
fair market value, and then once that happens, we as a county take on that property, and
the full management of that property. Of those 60,000 acres, 25,000 acres were purchased
for agricultural values. As a staff, we donít have the time, the resources, the talent,
to go out and keep those lands in productions, so because of that, we partner with local
farmers and ranchers to make sure these lands stay productive over time. We call these farmers
and ranchers our ìpartners in conservation,î and these individuals lease the land that
produces a diversified variety of crops for our local markets. They range from barley
and beans, to kale and corn. And not only do these farmers and ranchers help maintain
these lands, but the lease revenues go right back into the open space program. In addition
to that, these families farms put right back into the community. These family farms not
only purchase their seeds, their crops, insurance, their fertilizers from local dealers, they
also purchase food, school supplies and clothes, right here in Boulder County, so that these
family farms generate revenue right here in Boulder County as well. While we recognize
the importance of our farmers and tenants on open space, we also recognize that these
are public lands, and we as stewards of public lands are accountable to the public as well.
So, this is where it puts us to day as part of this cropland policy. The Department is
in the process of creating this policy which will help us make management decisions that
reflect the public values and sentiments of the public, while assuring economic sustainability
of agricultural operations, and respecting and enhancing the environmental systems for
the foundation of agriculture. This forum is the third in our engagement of the public
in this conversation. So again for those of you that this is your first time, weíve also
reached out and weíve had an open house at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, where the
public has had the opportunity to talk with staff, to talk with farmers about what ranching
and farming is like in Boulder County. From then we went ahead and we scheduled tours
out in the field. We heard from people that they wanted to get out and see these lands,
they wanted to hear from these farmers and ranchers what it was really like out there.
So we put together a tour. On our first tour, we rented a bus, we had 50 people, we went
out, we looked at a livestock operation, a row crop operation, and a vegetable operation. Those 50 people had
a wonderful time. Staff had a wonderful time. I just know when I got done with those tours,
you want to get back out again because it was, I think, a great experience. By the second
tour, we had over 100 people, by the third tour we had over 200 and some people signed
up for this, and again by the fourth, we had the public out there and it allowed over 400
people to see Boulder County agriculture on open space. The reaction that I saw from the
public was just amazing. It took people back to their childhood with being on farms, it
took people that had never been out in a field to see a sugarbeet or corn; the opportunity
to get their hands on the products and walk the fields, and again, I think talking to
the farmers was a huge part of that too. This now again is this third piece of this conversation,
engaging the public in this conversation, about how we manage our public lands for the
future. One of the things I want to be sure we are clear about as we talk about this is
that Boulder County Parks and Open Space lands and the cropland policy. So weíre only talking
about those lands that are owned in fee by the county. So this does not apply to private
lands or conservation easements. So with that background, Iíd like to spend a few minutes
on logistics of this afternoonís program. So, the program you received when you walked
in has a lot of information, so I wonít take a lot of time reading bios, but there are
a couple of things Iíd like to go over that will make things go a little smoother. There
will be three sessions this afternoon, and between each session there will be a short
intermission. During this time, youíll have a chance to purchase some local foods from
the 4-H groups out there. Those products were donated by local food merchants, so Iíd like
to thank Boulder Popcorn, Moeís Bagels, Boulder Chips, Justinís Nut Butters, and Seth Ellis
Chocolatier. All the proceeds from the sales will go back to those local 4-H clubs. Iíd
like to thank the kids for selling that as well, because when we talk about the future
of food, and we talk about the future of farming, those kids really are our future for farming
in this area. And again the adults who have spent time mentoring and teaching these kids.
There will also be book sales in the lobby, and the authors will be available to sign
those after the event. While we encourage you to buy your products, please enjoy them
out in the lobby, because there is no food and drink allowed in here, and weíre trying
to respect the school, and make it easy for the staff, so weíd like you to keep your
snacks in the lobby. Once youíre in the auditorium, please use the index cards you were provided
to write down questions you would like the panel to answer. And does everyone have their
index cards? Do we have enough pens to write down stuff? Because we can make sure we get
that to you guys as well. These cards will then be collected by staff and then given
to the League of Women Voters. They will go through those cards and then they will be
the ones to present those questions, and as many of those questions as they can to the
panelists when we get to the question and answer period of the program. So, with all
that being said, I want to get on to our speakers.
15:55 So itís my pleasure to present the authors
of ìTomorrowís Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food.î First, Raoul Adamchak
is an organic farmer and the coordinator at the University of California Davis student
farm. Pamela Ronald is a professor of plant pathology at the University of California
Davis, and directed the grass genetics at the Joint Bioenergy Institute. Being at what
is often considered opposite ends of the farming spectrum, this husband and wife team not only
co-authored a book, but are raising two kids and sitting down to dinner together and discussing
the future of food. I hope that this is a model for our community, that we can use to
begin a civil dialogue about what agriculture in Boulder County will look like. It is now
my pleasure to introduce Pam and Raoul.
16:41 Pamela Ronald Thank you all for coming today, we appreciate
having you here on a beautiful day, and many thanks to David Bell, heís gone to extraordinary
effort to arrange this symposium, and heís been a terrific host. So thank you very much.
So before we start the talk, I wanted to just run a two-minute movie, because I find it
really frames the debate well. (You can hit the button.)
20:26 And really, this is where Raoul and I began
our discussion. And we know through conversation with friends and colleagues, and family members,
that there still remain critical questions about agriculture, and particularly about
genetically engineered crops, and organic production. Many of our friends have asked
us if organic agriculture can produce enough food to feed the world, and many people have
asked us if genetically engineered crops are safe to eat, and safe for the environment.
So, this book is really our response to those questions, and what we try to do is take the
reader into the lives of an organic farmer and a geneticist, so the reader can find out
what we actually do. And also, we try to distinguish between fact and fiction in the debate on
crop genetics and genetic engineering. So, Iíd like to introduce my husband Raoul, who
will begin the talk, and then Iíll jump in in a little bit.
21:08 Raoul Adamchak You might think that an organic farmer and
a plant geneticist wouldnít have much in common. But we do, I mean aside from food
and the kids and a love of the outdoors, we also have a sense that agriculture needs to
have an ecological basis, needs to be environmentally sound. The kind of agriculture we have today,
we have one where agriculture varies globally, in the west, we have a very productive agriculture,
feeds everyone, food is abundant, relatively low cost. In Africa and other parts of the
developing world, food production is a disaster. Thereís not enough food being grown, thereís
malnutrition, thereís starvation. Both in the U.S. and Europe, and the rest of the world,
there are a lot of harmful pesticides being applied, there are soluble synthetic fertilizers,
nitrogen, being the most commonly applied, that contaminate the environment, thereís
continued soil erosion around the world thatís taking cropland out of production. On top
of that, there are a billion people in the world that are undernourished now. And we
expect, demographers expect another two and a half billion people in the world that need
to be fed in the next 40 years. We also have, unfortunately, climate change, where itís
going to impact agriculture with increased flooding, and drought. On the left here, those
are the Himalayas, and the glaciers are melting there. They provide water for (I didnít do
thatÖ donít know where those lights came fromÖ.) the glaciers are providing water
for much of South Asia, India, China, where the majority of the worldís population lives
and needs to be fed. In Africa, there are ongoing severe droughts that have impacted
agriculture a great deal. And itís going to get worse.
24:00 California has been a model state in a few ways; one of which is that they keep
track of pesticide use. This is a graph of millions of pounds of pesticides that have
been used in California, roughly for the past ten years. Over those ten years, there has
been 40,000 agricultural acres fewer each year due to urban development, and yet pesticide
use has not gone down significantly over those years, although there have been a lot of programs
that have gotten rid of some of the worst toxic pesticides. But as you can see,
thereís still a tremendous amount used today. At least in California, those pesticides are
used more or less safely, and there are on average about a thousand pesticide related
illnesses every year in California. And itís also been shown that pesticides cause non-hodgkins
lymphoma, can lead to Hodgkinsons disease, Alzheimers disease, and other diseases of
human beings. Pesticides also kill a lot of beneficial insects and contaminate water,
kill fish, and in California theyíre used largely safely. In developing countries, where
20% of pesticides are used, theyíre not used particularly safely. This is a Peruvian potato
farmer. Heís spraying fungicides on his potatoes. He has no gloves, he doesnít have a resperator,
those are his clothes heís going to wear home, and as a consequence of practices like
this, the World Health Organization estimates that there are 3 million cases of severe pesticide
poisoning a year, that result in 300,000 deaths. (hmmm, here we go). Fertilizer run off, especially
nitrogen, affects agricultural systems in the U.S. and around the world.
This is the Gulf of Mexico, and on the left, you have a dead ocean, and on the right you
have a living ocean. This is caused by nitrogen runoff from the Midwest that causes eutrophication,
algal blooms take off from the nitrogen; microbes break the algae down, they take all the oxygen
out of the water, and you get a big dead zone. This is a 6,500 square mile dead zone that
forms at the mouth of the Mississippi. Itís one of 200 major dead zones that form in the
U.S. And if you thought that nitrogen use is in decline, it certainly is not, itís
been increasing since 1952, and is going to continue to go up around the world, and I
say around the world because, the majority of nitrogen use these days is in the far east,
is in India, China, Bangladesh. We use our share here in North America, but if we have
the environmental problems here that Iíve shown you, you can imagine whatís going on
in Asia at this point.
28:13 The third big environmental problem generated by agriculture around the world
is soil erosion. This is an Iowa farm field that is headed for the gulf of Mexico. And
as a result of erosion, weíre losing 10 million hectares a year (itís going by itself nowÖ
next slideÖ there we go). So as a consequence of erosion, weíve already lost 30% of arable
land. So at a time when we need more land, for more food to be grown, we have less. This
map shows you the very degraded soils around the world. So with this understanding we have
of what the conventional agriculture system is looking like at this point, Pam and I sat
down and thought of criteria for more sustainable agriculture. And if you did the same thing,
you would come up with a similar set, I think, maybe a few other things. But, the important
parts, are that thereís social, economic and environmental aspects to it all, and Iíve
talked about some of the environmental ones: reducing erosion, reducing soil fertility,
clearly we also have to reduce energy use, for the County, youíre talking about local
food security, but itís an issue around the world. Everyone wants safe and nutritious
food, economically, the economics are somewhat a two-edged sword. You want to have an economically
viable farm, and sustainable rural communities, but you also want to have affordable food.
So, as an organic farmer, I think that organic farming has a lot to contribute to this, toward
our goals of sustainable agriculture. And a lot of them are in the farming practices
of organic agriculture. This is my farm at UC Davis, and you can see itís a diverse
in terms of crops, and itís also biodiverse. We have refuges for insects as well, we use
crop rotation, we support our beneficial insects and augment our beneficial organisms. We use
resistant varieties to help avoid diseases, and as a consequence, our farm, and organic
farms as a whole, have been shown to use 97% fewer pesticides than conventional farms.
And this is not to say that we donít have any crop losses. But weíve been remarkably
successful, and I think organic farmers as a whole have been remarkably successful growing
crops with a minimum of crop loss. Thereís been research done also that organic ag reduces
nitrogen leaching out of the soil, depending on a study from 50 to 80 percent, and also
depending on the cropping system. And the way thatís done is through the use of compost,
which helps build soils, but another important aspect of compost is that it fosters recycling
of waste out of both agriculture and urban environments. In California, it was mandated
about in the year 2000, that 50% of the waste stream that was going into the landfills had
to be diverted into something else. And a big chunk of that turned out to be urban green
waste, that is now being made into compost. Thereís a local producer that processes 1,000
tons of green waste a day out of urban areas, and the majority of that is going out to farms,
out to organic farms, to be used as a nutrient source.
33:40 The other tool that organic farmers use are cover crops to build soil, organic
matter, to add nitrogen. This is a crop that grows over the winter in California. Itís
vetch and bell beans, and it can fix about 150 lbs. of nitrogen a year per acre. I must
say too, that, cover crops are not free, in that thereís the cost of planting the seed,
and thereís the time that the crop has to be in the ground. In California, itís an
ideal place to grow cover crops, because we have a long winter, the temperatures arenít
too cold, and it turns out to be a very good way to add nitrogen and organic matter to
the soil. In other parts of the world, where the winters are colder, or there are dry seasons
where things donít grow, then growing cover crops can be more of a challenge. Thereíve
been a number of studies that have shown that the use of cover crops and compost helps to
build soil, and reduce soil erosion. This is a mix here of cow peas on the left, that
we planted as a cover crop over the summer, and then we have our fall crops, broccoli
and kale growing next to that.
So, Iíve talked about how organic agriculture can reduce pesticide use, provide alternatives
to soluble synthetic fertilizers, and help reduce erosion, and so you might ask, well,
is that enough, is that all we need to do? (oops, letís try that again.) Unfortunately,
I think the answer to that question is no, and there are a couple of reasons. There are
some pests and diseases and stresses that are really difficult to control using organic
methods. We have problems with nematodes and many of our soils in California, we have on
the farm an obscure pest called synphylums, very difficult to control, there are viruses,
and there really arenít organic ways of controlling. Of course, there are abiotic stresses that
are drought, and flooding, that farming practices can only impact so far. Also, in organic agriculture,
there are some pesticides that are allowed in the organic system, that if you were going
to start from scratch, you might not allow in, you might not think that they were completely
sustainable products. That includes copper as a fungicide, or sodium nitrate a fertilizer.
Theyíre not that benign on the environment.
There have been many, many yield studies about organic agriculture, and I could consolidate
them by saying that the studies have shown that organics systems can yield 45-100% of
conventional systems. I was an inspector for about 10 years in California, inspected a
lot of farms, and for the most part, my observations would be that organic yields are very, very
close to conventional yields. But there are some farms I visited, like rice farms, where
yields were commonly 50-80% of conventional, because of weed problems that the growers
were unable to manage.
And finally, the last one, the double-edged sword, I like organic agriculture because
itís been able to provide a living for a lot of farmers, a decent living, but the other
side of that is that many times organic food becomes too expensive for low income consumers.
And thatís true here in the U.S., but if organic food is being grown in developing
countries, itís a different economic situation there. So, this is a slide of ñ itís a little
hard to get a grasp on it ñ but this is a slide of an Ecuadorian hillside, thatís being
farmed, and you can see the top there, on the top, and then to me, the side of this
hillside looks vertical. And especially as a farmer thatís growing in California, on
utterly flat ground, this is mind-boggling to me. But we have a situation in the world
where the populationís increasing. We need more land if weíre going to feed people,
unless we can increase yields on the land that we already have. And itís estimated,
that without additional yield increases, with the population increasing, that weíre going
to need a doubling of cropland by 2050. Well, we donít have a doubling of cropland. It
just doesnít exist within the world. So the food we need is going to have to come from
the land we have already under production. But one pathway, maybe, to help solve this
problem, is that presently we have 30-60% of yield is lost to pest, diseases and environmental
stress, so if we can reduce losses, itís the same as increasing yields. So we have
a situation where we need to increase yields, and we need to do it in an environmentally
sustainable way. Plant breeding has been the traditional method over the years of both
increasing yields, and breeding crops that are resistant to pests. And Pam is now going
to talk about modern genetic approaches that can help us achieve these goals of sustainable
agriculture that weíve laid out here.
41:30 Pamela Ronald So I want to talk about some modern approaches
to crop improvement, and in particular, how scientists have developed new crops through
these approaches to reduces losses due to pest, disease, and environmental stresses.
So the first story I want to share with you is papaya ring spot virus. This is a papaya,
and plants, as animals, can be infected by viral pathogens, and these pathogens can be
quite devastating. This shows you, you can see these little rings, these are called ring
spots caused by papaya ring spot virus, and this is a very severe disease. In fact, in
the 1950s, the entire Oahu crop was destroyed by papaya ring spot virus. This is particularly
important to Californians, because all of our papaya comes from Hawaii. So the farmers
had no way to control this disease, no conventional approach, no pesticide they could spray, no
organic approach, and so what they had to do was move. And they moved to the island
of Hawaii, all the papaya orchards. And then, unfortunately, in 1992, the virus was discovered
in Hawaii. And very quickly, the production started to plummet. And by 1995, the production
had dropped 20-fold and papaya growers there were facing the complete loss of their industry.
And these are small farms; many of the farmers are recent immigrants from the Philipines.
So, along came Dennis Gonzales. He is a local Hawaiian, and he had been very interested
in this new concept at that time of genetically engineered crops. So what he did was take
a snippet of a mild strain of a papaya, and he introduced that into the papaya, and in
a way itís like vaccinating the papaya, just as humans go to get vaccinated once a year
for severe diseases, this is conceptually similar and has the potential to eradicate
certain diseases as weíve almost eradicated polio and smallpox. So this was an extremely
successful project. (I think itís getting ahead of itself hereÖ soÖ I want to go to
this slide, thank you.) So this shows you ñ I should say this project was funded by
the USDA, a nonprofit agency, for about a cost of $60,000, so this was many years ago
before there were very expensive regulatory requirements, you know the regulation was
basically OK, you put a fence around your field, which is what he did. So you can see
the transgenic papayas grown here on the center and on the outside here is the conventional
papaya. This is a natural field inoculum. All the farms in the area look like this and
the transgenic virus can carry any small snippet of viral protein, and it looks like this.
And I should mention, you can eat the papaya thatís infected with the ring spot virus,
but it has a lot of viral proteins and RNA, and the main problem of course is for the
farmer, who canít produce much of it. So this was a very successful project. Today,
80-90% of all Hawaiian papaya is transgenic, and thereís still no other method to control
this disease.
So I also wanted to talk about another very severe pest, this is a cotton boll worm; heís
emerging from his boll. And he looks pretty ferocious, and he is. Itís estimated that
25% of the worldís insecticide is used to control this single pest. Now this then, is
an excellent target for figuring out how to develop genetic engineering approaches, and
geneticists took a page from the organic farmer, because itís been shown for many years, that
thereís a protein call Bt thatís produced by a bacteria called Baccilus therengensis,
thatís very effective for controlling this particular pest. And itís very specific as
well, so it doesnít affect non-target insects. So, this is, now, geneticists took the gene,
and introduced it to many crops, including cotton, and this is one of the genetically
engineered crops thatís grown widely around the world. This is a farmer in Arizona in
his field. Thereís some really fantastic studies over the past 14 years, showing that
an integrated pest management approach is working very well to reduce insecticides,
and also to prevent resistance of the insects to this toxin. The Bt cotton fields, the farmers
in those fields, use half the amount of insecticides than their neighboring farms growing conventional
cotton, and they achieve the same yields. And itís also been well documented that thereís
increased biodiversity as measured by ant and beetle species richness in these fields
compared to conventional fields next door. And itís not hard to understand why, because
when youíre no longer spraying broad spectrum insecticides, non target insects can flourish.
And itís not only in the United States where this has had a huge effect. This is a farmer
in India, and thereís been tremendous increases in yield in India, and enormous reduction
in insecticide uses, and those two combinations have lead to a very large profit gain and
thereís one study showing that these profits are shared throughout the villages in a variety
of ways. So thereís great socieoeconomic benefits in countries like India. In China,
within a couple of years of introducing Bt cotton, growers were able to reduce about
160 million lbs. of insecticide. This is significant, so if you recall, Raoul said we use about
180 million lbs in California every year, just to give you an idea of how much insecticide
was reduced. And this reduction in insecticide correlates with increased health of farmers
and their families, and that was published in Sience a number of years ago. So, I wanted
to say that, you know, one common thread in the debate on crop genetic area I hear again
and again, is, well, you know, I donít want to just use seed, you have to use integrated
approaches. And thatís exactly right. You canít rely on seed to solve all your problems.
It doesnít really matter if itís a conventionally improved seed, genetically improved seed,
or genectically engineered seed; seed is seed and it can only go so far for transforming
an agricultural system; you also need to have very careful farming practices, and thatís
been shown for a lot of studies now, particularly for Bt, and many of these studies were lead
by Tabashnik and his colleagues in the University of Arizona. So for example in China, after
these dramatic reductions in insecticide use, other insects began to increase, and thatís
because farmers no longer sprayed these broad spectrum insecticides, and then there was
no way to control these other types of insects that arose. And theyíve shown in Arizona
that other insects can be suppressed by many different types of management practices, which
really proves that you need to integrate the use of genetically engineered seed with these
management practices. And theyíve also shown globally that you can reduce evolution of
insects that are resistant to this toxin by doing crop rotation, sort of an integrated
program, where you plant GE seed next to non-GE seed. And again, this is true with any type
of seed, whether itís genetically engineered or not. If you reduce the selection pressure,
you can reduce the possibility that insects will evolve resistance. So you really need
to integrate the best seed that you that you have with ecological farming practices.
So, I just have one slide on herbicide tolerant crops. These crops have also been planted
very widely throughout the globe, and again for about 14 years, so thereís a lot of data
about how these crops are behaving. They have really two advantages. Thereís been a shift
to the use of less toxic herbicides in these round-ups, so the use of round-up ready crops
that are genetically engineered to confer resistance to this herbicide round-up, which
is considered class 4 non-toxic, and so the growers can spray to control weeds using this
herbicide instead of some of the other herbicides. Ö. Iím sure the growers in the audience
can speak to this. So thereís been Ö less toxic herbicides, and more importantly as
weíve shown in the movie, 30% of greenhouse gases are from agriculture. So if we can reduce
those emissions from agriculture, we can have really a very huge beneficial impact on the
climate, and thereís also Ö showing that just in the years from 1996 to 2005, the plant
of herbicide tolerant crops reduced a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent
to removing 4 million cars from the road, this is about 20% of all the cars in England.
51:50 So I wanted to just finish with work from my lab. Iíve worked on rice for 20 years,
and I chose to work on this crop because itís a staple food for half the worldís people,
and any incremental small improvements you can make in productivity of rice will really
have a very large impact on a large number people. And this just shows you a typical
breakfast of a family in Mali. Theyíre cooking rice porridge. And this is one point I wanted
to make. Rice is almost throughout the world, except perhaps in California, and some of
the other large farms in the United States, is grown on very small farms, of two hectares
or less, and this is a family farm in Egypt. So, importantly, we also need to consider
that as the climate changes, large areas of some countries, including Bangladesh, are
expected to be submerged and Bangladeshi people get two-thirds of their total caloric diet
from rice. If you look at these kids in the field; these plants will survive the flood,
but the ones here will not. And thatís because rice likes to grow in the water, but if itís
submerged for more than three days, it will Ö And this causes severe problems in this
area, where subsistence farming is being carried out. Ö I just wanted to show you; Raoul mentioned
the Himalayas, and those , thereís aabout five rivers that irrigate this entire area
of southeast asia. As the climate changes, thereís increasing flash floods and melting
of these glaciers, and itís already creating problems in these countries. Eastern India,
Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh. Itís critical because 25% of the worldís rice is grown
in this area, and this is where a huge proportion of the worldís population is living. (Weíre
fighting back and forth about whoís going to click itÖ). So in Bangladesh and India
alone, I was just trying to give you an idea about just how much rice is lost every year
to flooding. Itís estimated that 4 million tons of rice just in these two countries,
enough to feed 30 million people, is just lost every year to floods. So this has been
an important goal for many years, of plant breeders and plant geneticists to develop
new varieties, that can withstand these floods. And, about 50 years ago, there was an old
rice variety, called flood resistant rice, that was shown to be highly tolerant to submergence.
And unlike all modern varieties grown all over the world, this variety (ummm, would
you go back pleaseÖ) this variety is very tolerant to submergence (would you go back
pleaseÖ I think Iíll just say ënext slideí and then Iíll put this thing down, that might
work a little better). And so, what I wanted to say here is that this has been an important
goal, and this particular variety could stay under water for 14 days, as opposed to 3 days,
and then come out alive. So itís almost like this variety can almost hold its breath under
water. The issue though is that this variety has not been used for 50-100 years, because
it has very poor yield, poor taste, and farmers in Bangledesh and India have rejected it.
So the idea was to bring this trait into modern varieties, locally adapted varieties. Breeders
had tried to do this really for about 50 years, but itís a very complex trait and very difficult
to introduce a single gene without bringing in a lot of other traits. So in conventional
breeding, when you do these crosses, you bring in, you mix large sets of uncharacterized
genes, and thereís a lot of genes in this whole variety that farmers donít want, because
it reduces the yield, it reduces flavor, it doesnít flower at the right time, and so
conventional breeding failed to develop a variety that was acceptable to farmers. So
about 10 years ago, I started working with a rice breeder, whoís now in the international
rice breeding research institute, to see if we could use the modern genetic approaches
of gene isolation and genetic engineering and precision breeding to develop a new rice
variety.
(Next side please.) And my lab was able to isolate a gene that confers tolerance to flooding
and is called sub1a for the submergence tolerance 1 gene. This shows you some of the experiments
in my lab. On the left is the conventional variety, the non-genetically engineered variety,
for submergence. On the right are the two GE varieties that we developed. So actually
Ö .the same genetic background Ö Before submergence they look fine. Itís really very
important, because flooding is unpredictable So you need to develop a variety that will
behave well without floods and when floods are there.
(Next slide please.) So this is what the plants look like after 16 days of submergence. The
conventional variety is all droopy, itís yellow, itís losing its chloryphyll which
is needed for photosynthesis; itís actually the leaves are elongated and itís a little
bit hard to see, but the rice plant is growing very quickly, itís trying to grow out of
the water, but it really doesnít have a chance. So, the GE variety on the right, are very
clever, theyíre just sitting there and thinking, ëwell, weíre just going to wait until that
flooding goes away.í Itís almost like theyíre holding their breath under water. (Next slide
please.) And this is what it looks like seven days later, after the recovery, and you can
see that the conventional variety dies, and the GE varieties now can re-grow, and can
now produce seed. (Next slide please.) So, my collaborator David McHillÖ, used this
basic knowledge, developed through genetic approaches to introduce this gene using a
very precise approach called precision breeding, or marker assisted breeding, and he was able
to introduce this gene into many different genetic backgrounds.
(Next slide please.) And you can see Samba vs. Samba sub 1. This is a field experiment
in the Phillipines after 17 days of submergence, so you can see the difference between the
conventional variety and the new variety, Ö with the same genetic background called
IRIS64. So these were very promising field tests, under controlled conditions.
(Next slide please.) I wanted to give you a time lapse video, to give you an idea of
the power of genetics. And again, this is in the field, in the Philipines, and this
is a time lapse video over 4 months. (If you click, letís see if this thing runs.) So
on the left is the new variety that the team developed; on the right is the conventional
variety; the flood comes, stays for about 1 days, this is the growth after the flood
recedes, and now the varieties on the left are the golden grain that are producing. And
this field test the variety Sub1 had three-fold increase in yield. So I like this slide because
it really shows the power of genetics, itís a very small genetic region, thatís been
introduces, and importantly, my collaborator showed that the field characteristics, which
are important to farmers, are completely identical. So the differences are really only after flooding.
(Next slide please.) So, Dave led field tests in many fields in India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia,
and what you see, our team visited a couple years ago, and we visited this group of farmers
in India, and on the left you can see the control field, and on the right, you can see
the sworn of sub 1 varieties. And you can understand then why the farmers are smiling.
Theyíre seeing even more dramatic increases in their fields than weíve seen in control
plots. Theyíve seen 3-5 fold increases in field. This is another site in eastern India,
and then on the lower right is in Bangladesh. And the field tests have been carried out
for four years now, and every year the floods come, and theyíve seen a 4-45 fold increase
in yield (next slide please, I have just one more). We also visited a place in Eastern
India called Orissa. (Next slide please.) And this is a womanÖ so you know, itís typical,
the men are out there doing the field testing, and the women are all in the village, you
know, hanging back. So we went over to talk to them, and it was really a wonderful experience
to get their impression of the rice (if you click, click one more time, one more clickÖ).
And so we heard this a lot from farmers, and this really was a fantastic program led by
the International Rice Research Institute, it was a participatory breeding program, so
the scientists were able to talk with the farmers; the farmers were able to give us
their input. (Next slide please.)
So thatís really the few examples we wanted to give you. I hope weíve demonstrated the
power of genetics and the power of seed, as well as the power of farming practices and
I wanted to just run through where we are in plant genetics today, because I often realize
that talking to audiences that itís not really understood whatís going on in the world of
biology. So this little plant is called ërabbitopsis;í itís a model, what we call a model plant.
It grows in Petri dishes; you can grow it from seed to seed in six weeks so you can
do lots of genetic experiments and understand what genes are controlling important stresses.
(Next slide please. One more click.) In the year 2000, the genome sequence was released.
This took seven years, $70 million, and 500 people. And one comment I hear really quite
often, is ëplant genetics is too expensiveí and ëletís put the money elsewhereí but
technology changes. And just to give you an example ñ and you know, this is pretty expensive
ñ next year the same project is expected to take two to three minutes and cost $99.
And then I have a couple more images you can click through. And so itís not only the rabbitopsis
genome, we have the rice genome. We have the corn genome. A couple weeks ago, the cocoa
genome was released. We have the wheat genome is being sequenced. And we not only have a
single genome from one variety, weíre now able to explore diverse genetic diversity
in many different varieties. And thatís critical, because there are 80,000 different rice varieties.
It has been saved and seed banks. Much of that biodiversity has been untapped for all
the years of breeding because we donít really understand how to get the genes from those
varieties into our modern varieties, and so thereís a huge push now in plant biology
to really tap into that deep genetic reservoir, and develop plants that can withstand pest,
disease and environmental stresses. Next slide. So I just wanted to have you, for a moment,
imagine your children, your grandchildren, and imagine if we make no changes. If we make
no changes to our agriculture. If we think what we have is good enough, you know, what
that would mean for the world as the population increases. We have not only very little arable
land left to farm, we have less water available, fresh water available now than we had 50 years
ago, and thereís no more water now that we can generate. And so it is really important
that people work together. I really admire what you all are trying to do here, and talk
about many of these important aspects of farming, and see what you do locally will have an affect
globally. I think every farming community needs to be ecologically minded, and productive.
Next slide please. And so, this is just a child, sitting on her bag of rice, and I think
Iíll just close by saying, you know, we really feel, based on the evidence from many many
years, that it is very possible to feed the growing population in and ecological manner,
and that we should use the best science based information, and the best farming practices
to accomplish this. So thank you.
David Bell. Thank you Pam and Raoul. And right now weíre going to take our first break.
If I could get people back here by 4:30, again because of the technical problems we had at
the beginning of the program, weíre running a little behind. If our panelists could come
up to the stage a little before, that would be great, and if our techs could come up here
and help get these micís set up that would be appreciated. Thank you.
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Sustainable Agriculture Forum Part 1: Keynote Speakers

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ykk 2013 年 6 月 25 日 に公開
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