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November 20, 2009


Amaizing: Corn Genome Decoded; Debunking Bogus Claims of Organic Center; Business of Farming; ASK-FORCE Strategy


* Amaizing: Corn Genome Decoded
* Impact of GE Crops on Pesticide Use: US Organic Center Report Evaluation
* The Business of Farming
* Biotech Crop Debate Goes On
* GMOs in Europe: The Risk Assessment and Approval Process
* Ask-Force - New Publications online now
* Gurdev Khush: Rice for a Hungry World


Amaizing: Corn Genome Decoded


In recent years, scientists have decoded the DNA of humans and a menagerie of creatures but none with genes as complex as a stalk of corn, the latest genome to be unraveled.

A team of scientists led by The Genome Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis published the completed corn genome in the Nov. 20 journal Science, an accomplishment that will speed efforts to develop better crop varieties to meet the world's growing demands for food, livestock feed and fuel.

"Seed companies and maize geneticists will pounce on this data to find their favorite genes," says senior author Richard K. Wilson, Ph.D., director of Washington University's Genome Center, who led the multi-institutional sequencing effort. "Now they'll know exactly where those genes are. Having the complete genome in hand will make it easier to breed new varieties of corn that produce higher yields or are more tolerant to extreme heat, drought, or other conditions."

Corn, also known as maize, is the top U.S. crop and the basis of products ranging from breakfast cereal to toothpaste, shoe polish and ethanol. The corn genome is a hodgepodge of some 32,000 genes crammed into just 10 chromosomes. In comparison, humans have 20,000 genes dispersed among 23 chromosomes.

The $29.5 million maize sequencing project began in 2005 and is funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. departments of agriculture and energy. The genome was sequenced at Washington University's Genome Center. The overall effort involved more than 150 U.S. scientists with those at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York and Iowa State University in Ames playing key roles.

The group sequenced a variety of corn known as B73, developed at Iowa State decades ago. It is known for its high grain yields and has been used extensively in both commercial corn breeding and in research laboratories.

The genetic code of corn consists of 2 billion bases of DNA, the chemical units that are represented by the letters T, C, G and A, making it similar in size to the human genome, which is 2.9 billion letters long.

But that's where much of the similarity ends. The challenge for Wilson and his colleagues was to string together the order of the letters, an immense and daunting task both because of the corn genome's size and its complex genetic arrangements. About 85 percent of the DNA segments are repeated. Jumping genes, or transposons, that move from place to place make up a significant portion of the genome, further complicating sequencing efforts.

A working draft of the maize genome, unveiled by the same group of scientists in 2008, indicated the plant had 50,000-plus genes. But when they placed the many thousands of DNA segments onto chromosomes in the correct order and closed the remaining gaps, the researchers revised the number of genes to 32,000.

"Sequencing the corn genome was like driving down miles and miles of desolate highway with only sporadically placed sign posts," says co-investigator Sandra Clifton, Ph.D., of Washington University. "We had a rudimentary map to guide us, but because of the repetitive nature of the genome, some of the landmarks were erroneous. It took the dedicated efforts of many scientists to identify the correct placement of the genes."

Interestingly, plants often have more than one genome and corn is no exception. The maize genome is composed of two separate genomes melded into one, with four copies of many genes. As corn evolved over many thousands of years, some of the duplicated genes were lost and others were shuffled around. A number of genes took on new functions.

Corn is the third cereal-based crop after rice and sorghum - and the largest plant genome to date - to have its genome sequenced, and scientists will now be able to look for genetic similarities and differences between the crops. "For example, rice grows really well in standing water but corn doesn't," explains co-investigator Robert Fulton, of Washington University. "Now, scientists can compare the two genomes to find variations of corn genes that are more tolerant to wet conditions."

The United States is the world's top corn grower, producing 44 percent of the global crop. In 2009, U.S. farmers are expected to produce nearly 13 billion bushels of corn, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

U of M plant scientist uncovers clues to yield-boosting quirks of corn genome

When it comes to corn, 1 + 1 = more than 2: The offspring of two inbred strains tend to be superior to both of their parents. Characterizing the gene-level variability that leads to this phenomenon, known as heterosis or hybrid vigor, could boost our ability to custom-tailor crops for specific traits, such as high protein content for human consumption or high glucose content for biomass fuel.

With help from the newly released DNA sequence of the common corn strain B73, University of Minnesota plant biologist Nathan Springer and colleagues from Iowa State University, Roche NimbleGen, and the University of Florida have begun doing just that-and come up with some surprising findings.

In a study reported in the Nov. 20 issues of Science and PLoS Genetics, the researchers compared the genetic sequence of B73 with that of a second inbred strain, Mo17. They discovered an astonishing abundance of two kinds of structural variations between the pair: differences in the copy number of multiple copies of certain stretches of genetic material, and the presence of large chunks of DNA in one but not the other. In fact, at least 180 genes appearing in B73 aren't found in Mo17, and Springer, an associate professor of plant biology in the College of Biological Sciences, suspects that Mo17 likely has a similar number of genes that B73 lacks.

"The genomes of two corn strains are much more different than we would have thought," Springer said. "What struck us is how many major changes there are between two individuals of the same species."

The researchers think that this diversity, which is almost as great as the difference between humans and chimpanzees, is what's behind the superiority of hybrids. When the genetic material from the two very different parents combines, the offspring end up with more expressed traits than either parent - the best of both worlds, gene-wise.

The findings are important because corn is important. Domesticated some 10,000 years ago, the crop produces billions of bushels of food, feed, and fuel feedstock each year in the United States alone. If we understand the molecular underpinnings of hybrid vigor, Springer says, we can potentially produce true-breeding lines of corn with specific traits for specific uses.


Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: US Organic Center Report Evaluation

- PG Economics, November 19, 2009 http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/

PG Economics welcomes the Organic Center (OC) latest release Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use: the first thirteen years by Charles Benbrook, which confirms the positive impact biotech crops have had on reducing insecticide use and associated environmental impacts. However, the OC's assessment of the impact of biotech herbicide tolerant traits (HT) is disappointingly inaccurate, misleading and fails to acknowledge several of the benefits US farmers and citizens have derived from use of the technology.

For those reviewing the issues examined in the OC report, the following should be noted: • Confirmation: of biotech insect resistant (IR) impact on insecticide use: the OC paper confirms the findings of other work that the use of IR technology has resulted in important reductions in insecticide use on these crops that would otherwise have been used with conventional technology;

• Failure to acknowledge the environmental benefits arising from use of HT technology. These include facilitation of no/reduced tillage production systems2 which has resulted in important reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. For example, US HT biotech crops contributed, in 2007, to the equivalent of removing 9.48 billion pounds (4.3 billion kg) of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing nearly 1.9 million cars from the road for one year. In addition, whilst usage of broad spectrum herbicides, notably glyphosate (and to a lesser extent glufosinate) has increased significantly, usage of less environmentally benign products such as pendimethalin, metribuzin, fluazifop and metalochlor has fallen substantially, leading to net benefits to the environment 3;

• Inaccuracies: It uses assumptions relating to herbicide use on biotech crops in the US that do not concur with actual practice. As a result, it overstates herbicide use on US biotech crops significantly. For example, it overstates herbicide use on the HT crops of corn, cotton and soybeans for the period between 1998 and 2008 by 63.4 million pounds (28.75 million kg) of active ingredient;

• Misleading use of official data: The OC report states many times that the pesticide impact data is based on official, government (USDA NASS) pesticide usage data. Whilst this dataset is used, its limitations (namely not covering pesticide use on some of the most recent years and not providing disaggregated breakdowns of use between conventional and biotech crops) mean that the author's analysis relied on own-estimates of usage and cannot reasonably claim to be based on official sources. As a result, the herbicide usage assumptions on conventional crops, if they replaced biotech HT traited crops, are significantly understated and unreliable.

Combined with the overstated use assumptions on HT biotech crops, it is therefore not surprising that the document concluded that biotech crops lead to an increase in US herbicide use. This contrasts sharply with the findings of PG Economics' peer reviewed analysis4 that estimated that biotech crop adoption in the US has reduced pesticide spraying in the US, eg, by 357 million lbs (162 million kg: -7.1% 1996-2007) relative to what might reasonably be expected if the crops were all planted to conventional varieties;

• Weak approach: the approach of the OC report author is based on personal assumptions of herbicide use for biotech versus conventional crops and extrapolation of average trends in total crop active ingredient use (from an incomplete dataset). It also does not present any information about typical weed control regimes that might be expected in conventional systems. Not surprisingly, this resulted in significant over estimation of herbicide use on biotech HT crops (see above) and under estimation of usage on conventional alternatives. As such, the approach delivers unreliable and unrepresentative outcomes. It is noted that the OC author is critical of the approach used by other analysts5 to estimate the herbicide usage regimes that might reasonably be expected on conventional crops if biotech HT traits were not used in the US corn, cotton and soybean crops over the last thirteen years. The NCFAP/PG Economics approach, criticized by the OC report, is to present and estimate the conventional alternatives based on a survey of opinion from over 50 extension advisors in almost all states growing these three crops. Observers should note the key differences between the two approaches with the NCFAP & PG Economics approach being much more reliable and representative.

Given the complexities of agricultural production systems and the nature of weed and pest control systems, more detailed comment and critique of the OCS report is detailed below.

More detailed points relating to the OC report and the real impacts of biotech crops in the US
1. The claims made in the OC report about changes in pesticide use on corn, cotton and soybean
crops in the US during the first 13 years of biotech crops (1996-2008) are cited as being based on
data from the USDA NASS, which annually produces reports on 'Agro-chemical usage on crops'.
The most recent of these reports was published in 2008 and covers usage in 2007. The NASS
surveys do not collect pesticide usage data on all field crops, in every year. The only one of the
three crops of soybeans, corn and cotton covered in the latest report covering 2007 was cotton.
The last time pesticide usage data on soybeans was collected related to 2006 and the last time data
on corn was collected covered 2005. Whilst the OC report draws on, and uses this data, its
analysis 'fills in the missing years' based on trends and extrapolates forward to 2008.

Furthermore USDA NASS data does not differentiate pesticide usage between biotech and non
biotech crops. In order to make such comparisons the OC report author made assumptions on
use of pesticides on each type of production for all years. Therefore the frequent reference in the
report to NASS-based data (notably for the last few years for total usage on each crop and all
usage differentiated into biotech versus conventional) is misleading and disingenuous to USDA
NASS - many readers might gain the impression that the report is using the government data
source when, in fact, crucial parts of the data used, on which conclusions and arguments are
drawn, do not draw from this source but are founded on the author's use assumptions (see below
for additional comments).

2. The only comprehensive source of pesticide usage data on field crops in the US is DMR Kynetec,
an independent, private sector source of data on agricultural input usage in the US6. This dataset
goes back to 1998 and covers the period up to, and including 2008. It also provides data
disaggregated into usage on biotech versus conventional crops. A comparison of the actual
average usage volumes for herbicide active ingredient use per acre on biotech HT crops from this
dataset compared to the assumed usage rates in the OC report shows that the OC report
overstates herbicide active ingredient on biotech crops. Over the period 1998-2008, the OC paper
overstates the amount of herbicide active ingredient used on the biotech HT corn, cotton and
soybean crops by 63.4 million lbs (28.75 million kg) compared to actual usage recorded in the
DMR Kynetec dataset (equal to 6% of the total herbicide active ingredient used on these crops in
this eleven year period).

3. Assessment of the amount of pesticide usage that would be used on the three crops of corn,
cotton and soybeans in the US, if the entire crops were conventional requires the use of
assumptions, about what herbicides and insecticides might reasonably be expected to be used in
the absence of biotechnology. Applying usage rates for existing conventional crops is one
approach (eg, using the average values identified from the disaggregated data in the DMR
Kynetec dataset). However, this is likely to provide significant under estimates of what usage
would be in the absence of biotechnology, when the conventional cropping dataset used to
identify pesticide use relates to a relatively small share of total crop area. This has been the case
in respect of the US corn, cotton and soybean crops for several years. The reasons why this
conventional cropping dataset is unrepresentative of the levels of pesticide use that might
reasonably be expected to be used in the absence of biotechnology include--- (cut)

Detailed report at http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/

The Business of Farming

- John Reifsteck, Truth about Trade, November 2009 http://www.truthabouttrade.org

Farming is a business. It's my business. Success requires sound business practices. That's why I choose to plant GM corn and soybeans--and why I'm so appalled by a new activist-sponsored study that questions my ability to make sensible decisions for my own farm.

Except that this isn't even a "study." To call it that is to insult the test-preparation methods of 10th graders who flunk biology mid-terms. The document issued on Tuesday by three anti-biotech organizations--the Organic Center, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Center for Food Safety--is a collection of disputable facts and laughable assertions.

The central allegation of these groups is that biotech crops are forcing U.S. farmers to use more pesticides. It claims that since 1996, herbicide use is 383 million pounds higher than it would be without GM crops and insecticide use is 64 million pounds lower, for a total increase of 318 million pounds.

First of all, these figures don't tell us much because not all crop protection products are equal. An ounce of one can be more dangerous than a pound of another, so measuring them as if they were all exactly the same is nonsense. Also, it's possible to point to statistics that say the exact opposite. PG Economics Ltd., a well-regarded English consulting firm, recently issued its own findings and said that the use of pesticides on global biotech acreage has dropped almost 800 million pounds--or nearly 9 percent--during the same period.

So which claim is more accurate? Maybe the best approach is to let third parties judge. As it happens, the U.S. Geological Survey has studied the environmental impact of pesticides for years. In specific, it has measured pesticide runoffs into rivers and streams. It doesn't have a political agenda--just a scientific one.

Here's the title of the press release the USGS issued last week, to announce the results of its latest research: "Pesticide Levels Decline in Corn Belt Rivers."

It doesn't take much to realize that this piece of welcome news trumps the hysterical accusations of biotech's sworn enemies.

The anti-biotech agitators are right about one thing: Weed resistance is a problem. But this was true long before biotechnology improved our weed-control methods. Just as bacteria can develop a resistance to antibiotics, weeds can develop a tolerance for sprays. Farming is all about adapting to change, and we've developed techniques for countering this phenomenon. One simple approach is to rotate crop protection products rather than relying on a single variety.

Unfortunately, the agenda-driven foes of biotechnology don't want to help farmers kill harmful weeds that steal moisture and nutrients, but rather to remove one of the best tools we have for protecting our crops.

Their disconnection from reality is so profound that they claim "farmers are increasingly critical of GE crops." Well, we're all capable of grumbling about seed prices. But the notion that American farmers are beginning to have second thoughts about biotechnology is preposterous. According to federal statistics, the use of genetically-enhanced crops now includes 91 percent of soybeans, 88 percent of cotton, and 85 percent of corn.

Near-universal acceptance is a strange way of expressing criticism.
Observers sometimes make a distinction between biotech crops and "conventional" crops. When the adoption of biotechnology rises above the 85-percent mark, however, I think we have to reconsider these words. Biotechnology is the new conventional.

This is a positive development because biotech crops are the bounty of safe and reliable technologies that deliver environmental and economic sustainability. They produce more yield on less land with lower production costs--and one of those lower production costs includes less dependence on pesticides.

I can state this as a fact because I've farmed for 37 years. That's another way of saying that I've spent my life battling bugs and weeds. I've used many different tools to protect my crops from destruction--everything from old-fashioned pesticides to new-fangled biotechnology.

Based on my own personal experience--rather than the scare-tactic reports of people who have never laid eyes on my fields--I can say with absolute certainty that biotech crops have allowed me to reduce my pesticide applications.

I know my business. I just wish there weren't so many professional protesters trying to put me out of it.

John Reifsteck, a corn and soybean farmer in western Champaign County Illinois, is a Board Member of Truth About Trade and Technology (www.truthabouttrade.org).

Biotech Crop Debate Goes On

- Ross Korves, Truth about Trade, November 20, 2009 http://www.truthabouttrade.org

Hardly a month goes by when another report claims some new benefits or criticisms of biotech crops. This debate is important because these crops were grown on over 300 million acres worldwide in 2008 according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications and probably on more acres in 2009. The latest report on data for the U.S. does not change the consensus that biotech crops play a key role in helping to feed a growing world population.

The latest report is by Charles Benbrook, PhD, Chief Scientist, The Organic Center, titled "Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Thirteen Years." The basic arguments of the report are that planting of biotech soybeans, corn and cotton has resulted in increased use of pesticides (herbicides and insecticides) and weed resistance has increased from repeated yearly planting of biotech crops. The analysis is mostly based on pesticide use data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of USDA.

According to Benbrook, planting of Bt corn has reduced insecticide use for the thirteen years from 1996 to 2008 by a total of 32.6 million pounds, 0.1 pounds per acre. Insecticide used on cotton declined by 31.6 million pounds, or 0.4 pounds per acre from 1996 to 2008. Herbicides used on herbicide tolerant soybeans, cotton and corn increased 382.6 million pounds over the thirteen years compared to the amount used if there were no biotech crops, with most of the increase, 351.0 million pounds, 0.55 pounds per acre, on soybeans. These are active ingredient pounds and do not account for differences in the Environmental Impact Quotient of pesticides. For the thirteen years, 46 percent of the increased use occurred in 2007 and 2008. Part of the claimed increase in herbicide use is due to incremental reductions in estimates of application rates of herbicides applied on non-biotech crops. These rates are not directly surveyed by NASS and are calculated as residuals after estimating the average amount of herbicides used on biotech crops.

For insect resistant Bt crops Benbrook notes, "Sustaining the efficacy of Bt crops is both important and possible." Resistance management plans that require some portion of the crop to be planted to non-Bt "refuge" varieties is seen as the key factor in avoiding a buildup of resistance in insects.

Herbicide resistant weeds are not a new problem just associated with biotech crops. According to upper bound estimates reported by Benbrook, in the late 1970s about 1.9 million acres of U.S. cropland had weeds resistant to photosystem II inhibitors, mostly the herbicide atrazine which is still used today. Weed resistance on 9.9 million acres has been observed for the ALS inhibitor herbicides. For 2001-08 about 5.4 million acres were found with weeds resistant to glyphosate. Glyphosate has been low cost, effective and easy to use. It is not a surprise that producers would use it until a more cost effective program becomes available.
Benbrook's suggestions for dealing with herbicide resistant weeds include altering crop rotations, following herbicide resistance management plans and deep tillage before planting and mechanized cultivation between rows of growing crops. The first two suggestions are not controversial, but the suggestions of more soil tillage is counter to efforts over the last 30 years to reduce tillage to lower production costs and improve soil and water quality. It also runs counter to recent efforts to reduce release of carbon to the atmosphere from the soil and use of fossil fuels.

A May 2009 analysis by Graham Brooks and Peter Barfoot of PG Economics titled "GM Crops: Global Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts 1996-2007" quantifies the economic and environmental impacts for the U.S. and may explain why producers have adopted biotech crops despite some challenges. Adoption of herbicide tolerant soybeans in the early years reduced production costs in the U.S. by $10-14 per acre and $16-25 per acre in recent years from lower herbicide and fuel costs compared to non-biotech soybeans. Herbicide tolerant corn reduced costs by $8-10 per acres, and herbicide tolerant cotton reduced costs by $1-20 per acre. Insect resistant corn increased yields by 5 percent, while costs went up $1-4 per acre as the technology fee was higher than the reduced insecticide costs of $6 per acre. Rootworm resistance in corn has also increased yields by 5 percent, with technology fees of $14-17 per acre slightly exceeding insecticide savings of $13-15 per acre. Insect resistant cotton increased yields by 9-11 percent and reduced pesticide outlays slightly exceeded the cost of the technology fee.

Graham and Barfoot also note that biotech crops have indirect farm level economic impacts like increased management flexibility, adoption of conservation and no-tillage systems, lower harvesting costs due to weed-free fields, less human insecticide exposure and lower production risks. Estimates for the Midwest for fuel savings in corn production compared to conventional-tillage programs show a 17 percent fuel reduction for mulch-till, 25 percent for ridge-till and 50 percent for no-till. Fuel savings for soybeans compared to conventional-tillage are 8 percent for mulch-till, 25 percent for ridge-till and 75 percent for no-till. Continuous use of no-till can result in an increase of carbon sequestration in the soil.

A recent release from the Weed Science Society of America indicates that progress is being made in adjusting to the reality that glyphosate is not the one application solution to all weed problems. Results after three years of a four year study in six states compare the economics of university-recommended, herbicide resistance management programs with the use of glyphosate as the only weed control. The net returns on fields with best management practices are equal to or greater than returns on those fields where glyphosate is used alone because increased yields appear to offset any increase in herbicide costs.

The debate over biotech crops will not end with one more report from any group. Farmers in the U.S. and around the world will continue to manage weeds and insects using the best management practices available consistent with maintaining yields and controlling costs. Those choices are becoming increasingly complex as producers manage for new condition like carbon sequestration. Biotechnology is an established tool to help manage competing trade-offs.


GMOs in Europe: The Risk Assessment and Approval Process

- Listen and Watch his slide presentation at http://mms.technologynetworks.net/agwc_2009/davies/player.html

Howard Davies, Director of Science Co-ordination, Scottish Crop Research Institute, UK; Speaking at the Agrigenomics World Congress (Posted: November 19, 2009)
Europe remains at a virtual standstill regarding commercial production of GMOs, with European governments split when voting on approvals, despite positive statements on the safety of individual products from the European Food Safety Authority. No crops have approved for cultivation for almost 10 years and GM crops cover only 0.119 % of European agricultural land.

This presentation will provide an overview of the approval process in the EU, including the risk assessment strategies. The scope for improving the process will be considered using, for example, risk assessment frameworks developed within EU projects such as Safe Foods (www.safefoods.nl). The potential use of "omics"" approaches within the risk assessment process will also be discussed as a tool to further reduce uncertainties related to any "unintended effects" caused by the genetic modification. This is particularly relevant for next generation GM crops with modified metabolism and nutritional profiles.


Prof. Davies' research interests have focused on linking ‚'traditional' biochemistry with transgenic biology to understand the roles of specific genes in trait development. His current research has a particular focus on integrating outputs from metabolomics, proteomics and transcriptomics platforms to understand functional diversity with regard to quality traits and to provide benchmark data for food safety evaluations.

He has considerable experience in working with transgenic plants and for the last 12 years has been heavily involved with European Commission and European Food Safety Authority GMO Panels assessing potential risks to human health and the environment associated with commercial releases of GM crops.

Ask-Force - New Publications online now

1. New: Biodiversity and GM crops

2. ASK-FORCE strategy: with revisions:

3. ASK-FORCE blog on Rosi-Marshall: with an addition of a new publication of Swan, (at the beginning of the blog), confirming the critique on the publication of Rosi-Marshall 2007
the second addition is a more extensive answer on the Nature feature GM crop battle by Emily Waltz - again proving that Rosi-Marshall continues with more misstatements.

Preprint - Swan, C.M., Jensen, P.D., Dively, G.P., & Lamp, W.O. (2009) Processing of transgenic crop residues in stream ecosystems. Journal of Applied Ecology, 9999, 9999,
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01728.x AND http://www.botanischergarten.ch/Bt/Swan-processing-GM-crops-stream-JAE-2009.pdf
more publications of Swan et al. in the ASK-FORCE blog on Rosi-Marshall cited, with full text links.

4. A new publication on the fate of Bt toxin in soil:

Miethling-Graff, R., Dockhorn, S., & Tebbe, C.C. (2009)
Release of the recombinant Cry3Bb1 protein of Bt maize MON88017 into field soil and detection of effects on the diversity of rhizosphere bacteria. European Journal of Soil Biology, In Press, Corrected Proof, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VR7-4XNGH9H-1/2/ab3456b83a748a777b41ba874ff80679 AND http://www.botanischergarten.ch/Bt/Miethling-Graff-Release-Cry3Bb1-MON88017-Soil-2009.pdf


Gurdev Khush: Rice for a Hungry World


Dr. Gurdev Khush, recipient of the 1996 World Food Prize, can take credit for developing the most widely planted food crop ever grown. Recently, the famed rice breeder added two new awards to his long list of honors.

Dr. Khush was presented the The Mahathir Science Award by the Academy of Sciences of Malaysia on September 28 for his outstanding contributions to tropical agriculture. The award was conferred to Dr. Khush in recognition of his perseverance, leadership, commitment, and revolutionary work in systematically pioneering and developing rice varieties that have overwhelmingly contributed toward the alleviation of world hunger.

Last month, Dr. Khush was one of nine recipients of a 2009 Award of Distinction from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES) at the University of California, Davis. The award is presented annually to those whose contributions and achievements enrich the image and reputation of UC Davis and enhance its ability to provide public service. Dr. Khush was honored among "Outstanding Alumni" and is also an adjunct professor at the university.

Dr. Khush was the chief plant breeder at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines from 1967 until 2002. He led the development of more than 300 rice varieties that helped create the green revolution in South Asia. A native of India, Khush earned his doctoral degree in genetics at UC Davis in 1960. IRRI's improved rice varieties pushed world rice production from 257 million tons in 1966 to 640 million tons by 2008. One of these varieties, IR36, is the most widely planted food crop ever grown.

In addition to the World Food Prize, Khush has also earned the Borlaug Award (1977), the Japan Prize (1987), and the Wolf Prize in Agriculture (2000). He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society (London), and is a fellow of numerous professional societies.