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October 23, 2009


How Philippines Got It Right with Corn; BS in CBS; Media Source Impact Communication; A Load of Greenwash; One Hot Professor from UCLA


* How Philippines Mountain Slopes Were Converted Into Rich Bt Corn Fields
* Unreality TV- The BS in CBS
* Vilsack Trumpets Changed Approach to Food Assistance
* A Level Field
* Media Source Impacts Ag Biotech Communication
* Transgenic Aubergines Put on Ice
* FuturaGene: Getting to the Root of Crop Technology
* A Load of Greenwash
* Planting the Seeds of Discovery
* In Search of Great Professors
* Watch Prof. Bob Goldberg of UCLA Lecturing on AgBiotech

How Philippines Mountain Slopes Were Converted Into Rich Bt Corn Fields

- Vivek Deshpande The Indian Express (India), Oct 23, 2009

The gentle mountain slopes in this fascinatingly beautiful place at once catch the attention not merely for their idyllic setting and extremely hospitable people that reside in their lush green shadows but also for a revolutionary trend in the agriculture they now practice along these inclines.

As one winds through the serene terrains of Cagayan valley in northern Philippines, none can escape the hypnotising effect of the slopes covered with rows of standing corn crops. The Philippines government has left no stone unturned to ensure that the corn farmers produce more, for their own self and for the country whose economy's mainstay is agriculture. The country, with over nine crore people to feed, has only small-scale local industries and no big manufacturing units worth the name.

Like the capital Manila, swanky malls and super shops can be found dotting the roadside market lines in most small towns that house rows of shanties amidst rich mansion, but the products sold here come from outside. And so, Philippines was quick to adopt biotechnology to boost its economy. Besides Bt Corn, the country has cleared Bt Cotton, maize, potato, soyabean, Argentine canola and sugar beet for use.

Authorities claim that introduction of Bt Corn in the province, that also produces rice like most other parts of the 7,000-odd islands' archipelago, has led to the production rising by four tonnes per hectare to 12 tonnes per hectare in less than five years, increasing their incomes from a meager 10,000 Pesos (Philippines currency) to 30 to 40,000 Pesos annually. Across Philippines, Bt Corn is now sowed on over 4 lakh hectares.

"I am thankful to biotech corn. I yield 5,750 kg in my half hectare and earn about 57,000 Pesos out of it," says Hermoso Juan from Diduyon village. "I was able to start swine production in my backyard and am generating additional income from it too," he adds.

Wilson Payahna, too, talks of the rich harvest he has reaped ever since he switched from the conventional white corn variety that succumbs easily to the deadly corn borer pest to Bt Corn. Farmers here use the "herbicide tolerant" Dekalb 9132 Bt hybrid developed by Monsanto.

In the past five years, the government has helped hasten the process with whatever it could do. Apart from its National Committee on Bio-safety working overtime to test the product for its safety, the government quickly handed ownership certificates to the local tribal farmers who now legally own the mountain slopes, akin to the process India has undertaken under the Tribal Act. Using weedicides, the grassland slopes were converted into regular crop fields and the way was paved for Bt Corn.

"Being something that's eaten, unlike Bt Cotton, Bt Corn required thorough testing. Only after it was found safe, was it released for use," says Saturnina Halosa, Chairperson of Biotechnology Advisory Team of the Department of Agriculture. "Human body doesn't have receptor cells for the Bt toxin and hence, it is safe to consume," she adds. After corn, Philippines is set to introduce a biotech rice variety called golden rice.


Unreality TV- The BS in CBS

- Tim Burrack, Truth about Trade, Oct. 23, 2009 http://www.truthabouttrade.org

On Monday night, the television show “CSI: Miami” launched a vicious attack on American farmers, corn farmers in particular; an angry assault motivated by willful ignorance and driven by scientific illiteracy. The result was worse than bad television. It was malicious propaganda based on distortions and lies about the common practices of modern agriculture. Call it “un-reality TV.”

I'm responding because I AM a farmer. I am a business man. I own my own land and work for no one else. I work very hard every day to produce healthy, high quality food for my family and consumers around the world.

“CSI: Miami” is a popular police-procedural show, now in its eighth season on CBS. It routinely ranks among the top-20 most-watched programs in the country. About 13 million people typically tune in, according to the latest data from Nielson.

Monday’s episode was called “Bad Seed.” At the start, a young woman dies. Doctors and investigators suspect food poisoning--but then the show delivers its own deadly dose of venom. It means to poison the minds of Americans with toxic nonsense, turning them against a staple food and the farmers who produce it. This soon becomes apparent as the heroes of “CSI: Miami” uncover a dastardly scheme. A company called Bixton Organic Foods is growing a new variety of GM corn--and its killing people.

There’s nothing wrong with a little fictitious embroidery in the service of a good drama. The problem with “Bad Seed” is that it doesn’t merely invent a police department with world-beating technologies and seemingly infinite financial resources. Instead, it bases its plot on a sinister falsehood: the notion that farmers and other food-industry professionals don’t care about the health or even the survival of consumers.

That’s not the only deception. The show also says that eating genetically modified crops and products derived from them is bad for you. It basically charges GM food with murder.

Here are some facts that any rookie crime-scene investigator would soon uncover: Every day, millions of people in the United States and around the world consume GM food. It’s no less healthy or nutritious than non-GM food. We know this from years of experience as well as extensive scientific and regulatory testing. GM foods have never so much as caused anyone to sneeze.

But according to “CSI: Miami,” the stuff can end your life. In a key scene, as investigators piece together their case, one of them mimics the flamboyant rhetoric of European anti-biotech activists: “They Frankenstein bacteria with plants,” he says.

This line not only mangles the English language by turning a proper noun into a verb, it also twists the truth. Cross-breeding is an age-old agricultural practice. Farmers have been doing it for thousands of years in a quest to grow better crops.

Biotechnology allows today's plant breeders to transfer genes carrying desirable traits from one plant to another. The practice has improved our lives in all sorts of ways, especially through the advancement of medicine.

In agriculture, biotechnology helps crops use nutrients more efficiently and resist weeds and pests. By limiting crop loss to both, the technology boosts yield on existing farmland, which keeps prices in check for consumers and reduces the stress on wilderness regions. Our future food security and environmental sustainability will depend upon the spread and acceptance of this vital tool.

This is hardly on the agenda of Halloween monsters. In the fevered imagination of the producers and writers of “CSI: Miami,” however, biotechnology presents a mortal threat.

There’s only one way to say it: “CSI: Miami” puts the “BS” in CBS. The show’s worst offense may be its sweeping denigration of farmers in the field, regulatory agents in government, and business leaders in the private sector. According to “CSI: Miami,” they’re all accomplices to homicide.

The ultimate villain of “Bad Seed” is the CEO of Bixton Organic Foods. The character is called Jerry Mackey--a name strikingly similar to John Mackey, the head of Whole Foods. At the end of the episode, he issues a vile little speech about his priorities: “If one man’s death means 500 get fed, yes, I’ll take those odds.”

He’ll take those odds? They’re completely and utterly unacceptable. I don’t know anybody who farms, let alone anybody in the entire food industry, who would accept this rationale. John Mackey of Whole Foods certainly wouldn’t.

Suggesting that such a person exists--and that he symbolizes those of us who devote our lives to producing safe and healthy food--is a smear.

If CBS wants to find a real crime scene, it should start by investigating itself.

Tim Burrack raises corn and soybeans in partnership with his brother on their NE Iowa family farm. Tim is a Board Member of Truth About Trade and Technology www.truthabouttrade.org


Vilsack Trumpets Changed Approach to Food Assistance

- Jean Caspers-Simmet, Agri News, Oct 22, 2009

DES MOINES -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack challenged participants in last week's World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue to dedicate themselves as Norman Borlaug did to feed hungry children. "It is necessary and important for countries that can grow surplus crops to look for ways to provide assistance to developing countries," said Vilsack said as he and agriculture ministers from Canada, Egypt and Mexico discussed food, trade and development.

Vilsack outlined the Obama administration's vision for food assistance. "In the past our assistance has been primarily in the form of the food that we grow," Vilsack said. "President Obama, secretary Clinton and I have a different view -- that we must go beyond the traditional notion of food assistance."

Their approach focuses first on understanding that what is done must emanate from the countries that are being helped. "It starts with the countries telling us how we can help," Vilsack said.

Food security must be comprehensive and go beyond simply increasing productivity. It must make food accessible to those who need it, and the food must be used in such a way that the highest nutritional value is attained.

This will require countries and organizations to work together. "The United States has committed $3.5 billion toward the $22 billion G20 goal," Vilsack said. "Our Congress is working on the 2010 budget that will make our first installment."

USDA will focus research on ways to help developing nations. The focus will be on areas of greatest need such as sub-Saharan Africa, but will not be restricted to that part of the world.

Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, said hunger programs must put farmers first so they can do what they do best, produce food. They can and will do that if they are given the right support.

"I am convinced biotechnology remains the key," Ritz said, citing genetically modified crops that use less fertilizer, less water and fewer pesticides. He said farmers can produce enough for both food and fuel. In Canada it takes less than 5 percent of productive capacity to produce the 5 percent ethanol blend used throughout the country.

Amin Abaza, Egypt's agriculture minister, said farming has existed in Egypt for more than 4,000 years. At that time there were 2 million people. Today the same land and water must support 80 million people. The richest farmer doesn't own 20 acres. He said that "ever corner of my country can feel that Dr. Borlaug was there."

In 1980, Egypt grew 20 percent of the wheat it consumed. Today the country grows 56 percent, but the population has doubled. Egypt will be among the countries most impacted by climate change. "I hope that we start to think and act as one," Abaza said. "We have a saying in my country that you can't clap with one hand. We need to clap fast because we are running out of time."

Carlos Vasquez, minister-counselor for agriculture with the Embassy of Mexico, said countries must create an open and fair trading system. "Our system is impaired by the over-use of subsidies, which create economic distortions," Vasquez said. "My Mexican farmers complain that they are forced to compete with the treasuries of wealthy countries."

The developing world will benefit from the completion of the Doha Round, Vasquez said. "We must dismantle protectionist measures and resist the urge to create new ones," he said.


A Level Field

- Editorial, NY Times, October 22, 2009

Many people think of agriculture as a tradition-bound occupation. It is far more like information technology, as high-tech companies genetically engineer seeds and a few powerful companies strive to dominate the market. Following a decade of unchecked consolidation, it is time for the Justice Department to take a hard look at potentially anticompetitive behavior.

A good place to start is with Monsanto, which is trying to block DuPont from adding its own genetic traits to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready technology to produce soybeans that would be resistant to multiple pesticides. Seeds carrying Monsanto’s genes can resist Roundup, the ubiquitous weedkiller. They are the dominant standard in American fields — present in 97 percent of the soybean crops and 79 percent of the corn, akin to Microsoft Windows on computers.

Earlier this year, Monsanto sued DuPont for patent infringement. In response, DuPont accused Monsanto of hindering innovation through restrictive licensing agreements. It also charges that Monsanto is pre-empting competition from generic makers by threatening to revoke seed companies’ licenses if they don’t switch to a new version before Monsanto’s patent expires in 2014.

Monsanto denies the allegations. It says that it regularly allows other companies to stack their genetic traits onto its own and that DuPont could have signed such a license. It also says that farmers are switching to the new anti-Roundup technology because it improves yields.

We don’t know who is right, but we do know that these charges need to be fully investigated. Monsanto has never been shy about going to court to defend its dominant position. Regulators are certainly concerned. In 2007, when Monsanto bought a cotton-seed maker, Delta and Pineland, the Justice Department’s antitrust division required it to remove license provisions forbidding rivals from stacking Monsanto with non-Monsanto traits.

The antitrust division will not say if it is investigating Monsanto. But in recent months, it has asked Monsanto and its competitors for information to determine whether Monsanto is breaching antitrust laws.

Agriculture is at the frontier of technological progress. Its innovations will determine, to a large extent, whether and at what cost this country and the world will be able to feed its growing populations. No company should dominate such an essential business.


Media Source Impacts Ag Biotech Communication

- Via Checkbiotech.org, October 21, 2009

MADISON, WI - Communication between the public and government is a necessary component of public trust. For many modern issues, constituents trust that their legislators understand the science behind these topics and pass legislation for the betterment of society.

While science has its uncertainties, much of that public trust is subsequently transferred to the scientists who inform legislators. Past studies show that scientists were seen as trustworthy sources of information; however, the public would like scientists to be more open, sharing their scientific knowledge through information sources such as mass media. For an issue as debated as agricultural biotechnology, communicating factual scientific information is a necessary ingredient in public acceptance.

Dr. Gary Wingenbach, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications at Texas A&M University, collected data from 2004 to 2005 to examine current and possible future legislators' perceptions of biotechnology. Also, data collected on information sources used by respondents to learn more about agricultural biotechnology helped the authors understand the impact of media types when communicating the science of biotechnology to others. Results from this study have been published in a recent edition of the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education.

Two groups selected for this descriptive study included elected state officers of the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization and Texas House and Senate legislators. The National FFA provides opportunities for high school and college students to increase their knowledge of agriculture and develop leadership skills. The group was chosen because state FFA officers have a propensity for seeking elected public offices.

Both groups relied on the Internet and newspapers as sources for agricultural biotechnology. However, Texas legislators used the Cooperative Extension Service significantly more often than did state FFA officers, whereas the FFA officers relied more on the Internet.

"We weren't surprised by the group differences in information source preferences," said Wingenbach. "State FFA Officers were 18 to 20 years old, while Texas legislators were 45 to 55 years old. Information source preference through online access only has become the norm for young audiences."

Other results showed that respondents believed it was important to continue agricultural biotechnology research on seven issues: safer food, reduction of pesticides, added nutritional value, risk compared to pesticides, benefits and/or harm to the environment, and control of released genes. Both groups thought biotechnology practices had "positive" not negative effects on the environment.

Science-based education about agricultural biotechnology through the most accessed media could produce more informed leaders. To prepare a more informed future public, other studies should assess the effects of an agricultural science curriculum on students' understanding of agricultural biotechnology and/or other agricultural topics (e.g., BSE, avian influenza, etc.) in the media. Informed understanding of current agricultural topics, such as biotechnology practices, may lead to an informed public, and to future leaders who could more readily understand the science of agricultural biotechnology.

The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at http://www.jnrlse.org/view/2009/e08-0022.pdf. After 30 days it will be available at the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education website, www.jnrlse.org. Go to www.jnrlse.org/issues/(Click on the Year, "View Article List," and scroll down to article abstract).


Transgenic Aubergines Put on Ice

- K.S. Jayaraman, Nature, Oct. 19 2009, v. 461, p. 104 http://www.nature.com/

'Indian minister delays approval of GM crop'

Stiff opposition from activists has persuaded the Indian government to put off commercial release of the country's first genetically modified (GM) food crop, despite clearance from the nation's top biotechnology regulator.

The 14 October ruling by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) granted permission for Indian farmers to grow a transgenic version of aubergine, or brinjal, that is insect-resistant. But barely 24 hours later, Jairam Ramesh, India's minister of environment and forests, said that permission for its cultivation will be given only after consulting "all stakeholders".

Ramesh says that the ministry will seek public comments until the end of the year and that he "will have a series of consultations with scientists, agriculture experts, farmers' organizations, consumer groups and NGOs" in January and February 2010 before deciding whether to go forward.

The GM brinjal variety was developed by Mahyco Monsanto Biotech, a joint venture between Jalna-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company and US seed giant Monsanto.

The decision to seek further input has angered some crop scientists. "The minister has set a bad precedent by ignoring the recommendation of the GEAC — a statutory body consisting of scientists," says Chavali Kameswara Rao, secretary of the Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education in Bangalore. "The biosafety issue of Bt brinjal has been studied by more than 150 scientists, and nothing new will come from fresh consultations."

But GEAC member Pushpa Bhargava, who was founding director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, says Ramesh has made the right choice. "The government need not accept every recommendation made by the GEAC," he says. Bhargava was one of the three members of the GEAC, out of a total of 20-odd members, who opposed the introduction of Bt brinjal — citing what they called inadequate safety data provided by Mahyco.

Mahyco says that at least 25 environmental-safety and food-safety studies on animals carried out since 2002 show that Bt brinjal is "absolutely safe" to eat. But Bhargava and activist groups argue that the GEAC did not get the company data independently analysed. The only other study, by French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini of the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering, branded Bt brinjal "potentially unsafe for human consumption".

According to Seralini, eating Bt brinjal reduced appetite in goats, increased prothrombin time (the time it takes blood to clot) in goats and rabbits, and caused the plants to produce a protein inducing resistance to the antibiotic kanamycin. However, an expert committee dismissed these concerns, saying that the crop "has been extensively tested for its biosafety, and no additional studies/review are necessary". That expert report formed the basis for the GEAC's ruling.

The Coalition for a GM-Free India called the approval a "shame" and alleged that "regulators have put the interests of corporations over that of ordinary citizens". But Rao says the anti-GM lobby is nervous. "They have already lost the battle over Bt cotton — the only GM crop grown in India — and they know if they lose over Bt brinjal they lose the war," he says.


FuturaGene: Getting to the Root of Crop Technology

- Ben Hobson, SmallCapNews.co.uk

Full article at http://www.smallcapnews.co.uk/article/FuturaGene_getting_to_the_root_of_crop_technology/7967.aspx

Dr Stanley Hirsch knows that one of the biggest challenges his company faces in the coming years is getting companies, governments and consumers to think differently about what can be achieved with genetically modified crops.

It’s a subject that has caused consternation among environmental lobbyists everywhere, and left proponents of these new technologies treading very carefully. But with widely predicted food and fuel shortages triggered by rapidly growing populations and the effects of climate change, it looks like there is a thawing in some quarters towards what can be achieved with science.

This week the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, called for an extra £2bn to be spent on research into global food security. In order to achieve the estimated 50% increase in food crop production that will be required by 2050, the society is calling for a grand plan that involves developing improved crop varieties using conventional breeding and genetic modification.

This is old news to Hirsch, who has spent more than 25 years running biotech ventures. Nine years ago he merged his CBD Technologies business into AIM listed crop specialist FuturaGene plc. Since then, the chief executive has been leading efforts to develop genetic solutions that both boost crop yields and protect plants from harsh conditions.

Biotech success
FuturaGene’s multi-billion dollar core markets include global forestry, where it has developed a fast-growing variety of eucalyptus tree for the pulp and paper sector; and biofuels, where it has come up with an elite variety of poplar tree to provide a carbon-neutral fuel for power stations. It also boasts a string of non-core growth-enhancing gene traits for a variety of other crops.

As well as using some of its own in-house development, FuturaGene has focused on building strong relationships with universities all over the world, from which it takes promising genetic advances and turns them into commercial products.

While it has yet to make any money – and a new funding round is likely to come soon – the most surprising aspect of the company is the progress it has made in just three years. Biotechs are notoriously vulnerable to either failure or being taken out by larger players. In the case of FuturaGene, it has managed to take its technology from the lab, into field trials and has now signed commercial deals with industry players.

In effect this means that the company is succeeding in a field dominated by just a handful of giants – such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bauer and DuPont. In Brazil, for instance, a long term tie-up with the country’s second largest eucalyptus grower, Suzano, looks likely to be the source of the company’s first revenues.

Hirsch’s views on genetically modified crops are obviously positive, but his comments appear valid on the basis of some of the figures coming out of the world agricultural industry. He reckons that just in terms of production, the world would have needed another 12 million hectares of land in agriculture in order to produce the same amount of food in 2007 than it needed with GM crops.

“The other fact is that GM crops have led to a reduction in Co2 because there has been less need for agricultural treatment of fields and improved crop methods because of GM,” he said. “The carbon reduction in 2007 from GM crops was the equivalent of taking 6.3 million cars off the road – that’s 24% of the cars in the UK.

“If people looked at the science behind GM instead of the incorrect public perception, they would actually see that these technologies are phenomenally beneficial for the environment.”

A Load of Greenwash

- Dick Taverne Prospect, Oct 21, 2009. Full commentary at http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2009/10/a-load-of-greenwash/

'Eco-warriors may think they're saving the planet, but are they actually harming it?'

The green movement has done much to warn us about climate change. But now that global warming is widely accepted, do green campaigners do more to hinder than help us tackle it? They stress the likelihood of catastrophe if we do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They urge governments to adopt demanding targets and they tell us what we must not do. Don’t fly, don’t drive unless you have to, don’t build new power stations, whether fired by coal, gas or oil—let alone by nuclear reactions. Apply the precautionary principle just in case technological developments might damage the environment. Their song is: “Accentuate the negative.”

But is this the best way to win support? The trouble with prohibitions and prophecies of doom is that they seldom motivate positive action. In their book Breakthrough (March 2009), Nordhaus and Shellenberger ask if Martin Luther King would have inspired the civil rights movement with the cry: “I have a nightmare.” If you are told armageddon is inevitable unless you give up the things you care for, fatalism is the likely response. Yet sensational scare stories—like about “Frankenfoods!”—are the stock in trade of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Scares recruit members.

What matters more than targets, then, is progress with technology, and here the greens’ approach generally suffers from a fundamental weakness: a mistrust of science. The precautionary principle is either so obvious it is otiose—“If there is significant evidence of risk, be careful”—or so vague as to be are virtually meaningless, or positively harmful. It tells us that even when there is no significant scientific evidence of harm, no product should be licensed unless first proved safe. This is impossible because science cannot prove certainties. It also concentrates entirely on risk, without weighing risk against benefit.

If, as I believe, the application of science and technology is the best hope for mitigating or adapting to global warming, the obvious conclusion is that green campaigners, for all their good intentions, ultimately do more harm than good.


Planting the Seeds of Discovery


When Bob Goldberg was a college student in the early '60s, most of his friends were going out on dates and hanging out in bars. Not Goldberg. He was spending his free time putting together leaf collections. "I just had this intellectual curiosity about plants," he says.

His interest in plants began during his first freshman botany class at Ohio University, in Athens. There, he also was exposed to the hot new field of genetics. The combination was irresistible.

Goldberg, now a distinguished professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology, has been on the faculty at UCLA for 27 years, focusing on one single goal—how to make a seed. This means identifying every gene in plant chromosomes and understanding its function.

"Why? Because seeds are the most important source of food worldwide," he says. "If we can understand how to make a seed genetically, we can make bigger seeds, better seeds, more nutritious seeds. With that, you can do a lot toward increasing food supplies."

With available agricultural land shrinking, "if you can plant more seeds in the same amount of space, you can keep the food supply flowing," he says. "It all comes back to seeds."

Goldberg believes that undergraduates who are not planning careers in science need more classroom exposure to science than they currently have because it is critical to understand how science affects their daily lives—and their future careers. Too many of them have never experienced what he calls the "excitement of discovery."

As an HHMI Professor, he plans to design and teach a course that will show students who are not science majors the numerous ways science has an impact on society, for example, the social, legal and ethical issues that arise from emerging new genetic technologies. He hopes that a few undergraduates might even decide to change their majors and switch to science.

Science majors, who often do not have an opportunity to work in a real lab, will conduct hands-on research in his lab so they can learn about genes that play a role in early seed development. Goldberg also plans to use undergraduate molecular biology majors as teaching fellows. "I like to teach kids how to teach," he says.

Goldberg, who last year was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, loves teaching. He describes his classroom style as "radical and Socratic," with multimedia and microphones "and calling on kids long before anyone ever heard of Oprah Winfrey."

In Search of Great Professors

- Dina Fine Maron, Newsweek, Aug. 12, 2009 http://www.newsweek.com/id/210908

'They're out there, waiting to teach you and change your life forever.'

Watch Out for Flying Vegetables

At a large research university like UCLA, it's easy to get lost in a crowd, or even a classroom, says Bob Goldberg, a professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology. That's why most Thursdays you will find him at the Faculty Center or the Napa Valley Grille treating a new batch of students to dinner. For his 50-person lecture class on genetic engineering in medicine, law, and agriculture, he says the key is to let students know you notice them and keep them actively engaged at all times.

For him, teaching is a lot like his chosen field of study. "It is really about experimentation," says Goldberg, 65. He is constantly trying new things to get students involved: asking them to swab their cheeks for DNA analysis, tossing them heads of lettuce and asking, "Is this lettuce in its original form? What about this one?!" His goal is to instill not just mastery of the material, but also an ability to "stand on your own two feet and make informed decisions."

Despite the class size, he wants all his students to know each other and feel comfortable participating in discussions. "I sat in a lot of boring high-school and college classes, and I was determined I wouldn't let that happen to students I taught," he says. He's not trying to make more scientists, though; he wants to teach students "why science is relevant to their lives" and "make informed Congress members, writers, and citizens."

Eden Maloney, class of 2012, was intimidated when Goldberg called her up to the front of the class to summarize a previous lecture (a Goldberg classroom staple), but, she says, "I learned not only critical analysis but also how to think clearly under pressure. Those skills are invaluable and go far beyond the classroom." Besides, where else can you learn to dodge flying vegetables?


Watch Prof. Bob Goldberg of UCLA Lecturing on AgBiotech


Bob Goldberg's Novel Undergraduate Science Education Program, Funded by National Science Foundation

This program contains two courses: HC70A and HC70AL, which specifically targets non-science majors and teaches them about science.

HC70A: Genetic Engineering in Medicine, Agriculture, and Law introduces scientific concepts in a classroom setting, through lectures, articles and in class demonstrations. Students learn the foundations of molecular biology, and discuss the ethical, legal, and social implications that result from emerging genomic technologies.

More at http://www.mcdb.ucla.edu/Research/Goldberg/news_index.htm