Brookhaven Lecture

"402nd Brookhaven Lecture: 'Genetically Modified Plants: What's the Fuss?'"

Presented by Ben Burr, Biology Department

Wednesday, March 16, 2005, 4:00 pm — Berkner Hall Auditorium

Genetic transformation is a relatively new and powerful tool used by plant breeders and for basic research. Benefits of gene transformation include resistance to pests and herbicides, which has led to a reduction in pesticide application and soil erosion. Genetically modified plants are used on a massive scale in agriculture in the U.S. and other countries, in part because they are less expensive and more convenient to work with. Yet, despite the benefits, genetic transformation remains a controversial subject and groups in the U.S. and abroad contest its practice. To gain insight into this contentious debate, join Ben Burr, a senior geneticist in the Biology Department, on Wednesday, March 16, at 4 p.m. in Berkner Hall, where he will present the 402nd Brookhaven Lecture, �Genetically Modified Plants: What�s the Fuss?�` According to Burr, to appreciate this controversy fully, it is important to understand how genes work, how they are organized in plant genomes, and how they are inherited. Moreover, the use of gene-transfer technology should be regarded in light of how and why plants are improved. The scope of changes that scientists have selected in plants to make them more productive should also be considered. In fact, recent discoveries about the genes that have been selected and the nature of plant genomes are some of the most interesting aspects of this controversy, says Burr. As he will explain, the risks presented by conventional plant improvement and gene-transfer technology have been reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Food & Drug Administration. These groups have concluded that gene-transfer technology poses no risk or danger above that present in conventional plant breeding. Furthermore, the use of transgenic organisms, including those used for research at BNL, is closely regulated in the U.S.

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