>> The issue is the displacement of traditional agricultural
>> specializations, such as agronomists, crop and livestock specialists,
>> soil management specialists, etc. by biotechnologists.
I was doing agronomic research in the public sector for 10 years, and
the pull, promise, and well, sexiness of biotechnology were always
apparent. We resented those guys for getting more money and prestige.
But the situation may be changing. In my short stint at Novartis Seed,
and now at Pioneer, I noticed that gene splicing was becoming, well,
ordinary. You can get a two year technical degree and do a lot of that
gene-jock stuff. But do ya know who is in charge? Very often someone
with background in traditional breeding. Pure biotech people don't have
broad enough knowledge. Take the Flavr-Savr tomato fiasco. Good gene,
but not in an adapted background. Of course, to be really good, you
need to understand both.
>> What this means is that to an increasing extent, we in the
>> academic community will literally not have the horses to
>> study/extend/refine meaningful alternatives to the high-tech paradigm
>> when (not if) biotechnology goes the way of the dinosaur.
The public ag R & E infrastructure may be the dinosaur, I'm sorry to
say. Many previously public functions are moving into the private
sector. Even more so in Canada. I think this has good points and bad.
What do you mean by "high-tech paradigm". Certainly not a Kuhnian
paradigm. We are not a paradigm community in that sense. If I might be
so bold as to speak for my colleagues, we are interested in what works.
Low-tech is always preferable, because it is cheaper (no regulatory
>> Not only
>> is research funding and output in the areas of truly
>> sustainable agriculture, e.g.
>1. *problem avoidance vs. problem solving,
>2. *working to channel natural processes to the service of human food
>3. *internalizing the true costs of production
>4. *enhancing positive synergies among system components, etc.
1, 2, and 4 are mainstays of ordinary agronomic research and breeding
(including biotech). I see 4 as an important, but primarily political
>> I see an agricultural
>> community in dire need for answers, but the questions will go
>> unanswered and the consequences will be devastating.
I think you are selling farmers too short. They have always solved most
of their problems themselves, especially system problems.
>> the academic departments will be populated by self-
>> perpetuating, uncomprehending, and unresponsive molecular geneticists
>> who will continue to churn out genetic irrelevances and publish
>> papers while Rome burns.
You don't have to be a molecular geneticist to be irrelevant. For many
years, the public R & E system has gravitated toward short-term,
gee-whiz, novelty research. But there is a need to bring good science
to bear on longer-term agronomic issues. Is the public system up to the
Please forgive me for being a bit aggressive. I am concerned, like you
are, about the future of ag science. In fact, I am trying to write a
paper in an attempt to define "distinctively agricultural science." If
you (or anyone) are interested in working on this, let me know.
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