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Lessons Learned in Communicating Plant Science Topics to a Concerned Public

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The current state of genetic engineering technologies and how to effectively talk about them to the public. Presented on 6/4/2016 at the annual conference of American Public Gardens.

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Lessons Learned in Communicating Plant Science Topics to a Concerned Public

  1. 1. Lessons Learned in Communicating Plant Science Topics to a Concerned Public Kevin M. Folta Professor and Chairman Horticultural Sciences Department kfolta.blogspot.com @kevinfolta www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com kevinfolta@gmail.com
  2. 2. Outline What is plant genetic improvement? What are some of the current techniques? How do we effectively engage the public?
  3. 3. What Plant Genetic Improvement Is More varieties Grow better under given conditions Improved yields Safer products Improved nutrtion
  4. 4. What Plant Genetic Improvement Is People Think Improved yields
  5. 5. Why New Methods of Genetic Improvement are Critical Gene editing
  6. 6. Why New Methods of Genetic Improvement are Critical We can make precise additions/subtractions to otherwise improved plants Speed. Genetic engineering (slowed by public acceptance and regulatory hurdles) is faster than molecular-marker assisted breeding, which is faster than traditional breeding.
  7. 7. The genomics revolution has dramatically changed plant genetic improvement Traditional breeding Genome-wide selection Molecular markers Transgenics (Genetic engineering, “GMO”) Gene Editing – CRISPR/Cas9 Increasingprecision Lesscollateralchange Publicacceptance ?
  8. 8. Why not just use traditional breeding?
  9. 9. It can take a long time. Sensitive Resistant!
  10. 10. Linkage Drag Backcrossing removes undesirable genes/alleles- but it takes time!
  11. 11. Marker-Assisted Breeding Association between the likelihood of inheriting a trait and a certain sequence of DNA - + + + + + + - + + + + + - - + Mara Elyana Plant5 Plant2 Plant4 Plant16 Plant8 Plant14 Plant1 Plant3 Plant9 Plant6 Plant12 Plant11 Plant13 Plant7 Plant17 Plant18 Plant19 Water
  12. 12. Marker-Assisted Breeding Association between the likelihood of inheriting a trait and a certain sequence of DNA Can select for trait at seedling stage Inexpensive and fast (relatively)
  13. 13. Transgenics (Genetic Engineering, “GMO) Addition of a gene, or small number of genes
  14. 14. Transgenics Can add traits from across species (like the Bt gene for insect resistance) Can suppress traits or viruses using RNAi (as in the papaya and potato)
  15. 15. Keep it Simple– What are the Three Main Traits? Virus Resistance Insect Resistance Herbicide Resistance (how the traits work lecture online – (google “ UF biotechnology literacy day”)
  16. 16. Transgenics Can we save the American Chestnut?
  17. 17. GM Crops Available Now 9 potato
  18. 18. Cisgenics/Intragenics Transfer of specific genes from the same species Cis-genic = as-is Intra-genic = all ‘native’ sequence with some re- arrangement
  19. 19. Strengths Limitations Virus resistance Works great, no foreign material Has cut insecticide use by 10-70% Saves time, labor, fuel. Allows conservation tillage Can spread to nonGM populations Pockets of developing resistance Resistant weeds are a problem in areas. Insect resistance Herbicide resistance Distill Into Digestible Units - Keep it simple. Discuss strengths and limitations (don’t create false equivalence)
  20. 20. Gene Editing CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short pallindromic repeats) Targeted, few collateral effects Allows production of custom mutations Reasonably fast and efficient No foreign genes present
  21. 21. Gene Editing Horn Gene Horn Gene NO HORNS!!! Good beef Bad milkHORNS!!! Bad beef Great milk
  22. 22. Gene Editing Horn Gene Horn Gene NO HORNS!!! Good beef Bad milkHORNS!!! Bad beef Great milk Cross…. Mix of bad beef, bad milk production
  23. 23. Gene Editing Horn Gene Horn Gene NO HORNS!!! Good beef Bad milkHORNS!!! Bad beef Great milk Horn Gene NO HORNS!!! Bad beef Good milk
  24. 24. Gene Editing Still strong opposition from activist NGOs Some countries have taken stands on the issue Stands to generate rapid improvement of crop plants, especially where traditional breeding is long (trees)
  25. 25. Talking to public audiences Plant genetic improvement techniques are safe. All methods involve some small risk– but all are about the same risk as traditional breeding. Techniques that breed in traits can take a long time Directed changes are more precise and more rapidly available, but frequently require regulatory hurdles
  26. 26. Talking to public audiences Don’t be a scientist, be a teacher. Lead with your common values. REMEMBER YOUR AUDIENCE! -- Don’t try to change the unchangeable. -- Most people just don’t know what to believe. Talk about shared values and how modern solutions can satisfy them.
  27. 27. Farmers The Needy Environment Consumers Talking to public audiences We need to celebrate that we have the safest and most abundant food supply in human history- and expand plant genetic improvement techniques to serve the farmer, the needy, the environment and the consumer.
  28. 28. More Barriers: Avoid these Mistakes Avoid “feed the world” rhetoric Always discuss strengths and limitations Don’t ever claim it is a single solution Don’t inappropriately criticize other forms of genetic improvement Understand the ‘backfire effect’
  29. 29. Thank you kfolta.blogspot.com @kevinfolta Talking Biotech Podcast -- iTunes or www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com kevinfolta@gmail.com

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