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Teaching Ag Biotech Workshop A 'Privilege'

EDITOR'S NOTE: This guest blog is from an instructor who taught a June 2014 week-long summer workshop created by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and industry partners for middle and high school science and ag teachers. This was the fourth of these workshops designed to increase knowledge and confidence about agricultural biotechnology topics, to improve communication regarding biotechnology’s role in agriculture, and to stimulate student interest in ag biotech careers. Teachers carry out hands-on activities, hear from and connect with industry representatives, receive lesson plans and curriculum materials for their classrooms, tour multinational ag biotech companies, and meet with farmers/growers. The 70 North Carolina teachers who have participated so far expect to share their new knowledge with some 35,000 students statewide. See a blog from an industry "insider" who participated in the workshop here, and from one of the teachers who enrolled in the workshop here.


Throughout history, the growth of human civilization has been driven by an adequate and secure food supply. 

Human population is poised to hit the 9 billion mark in 2050, with most of this growth occurring in the developing world.  As global citizens, we have a moral obligation to leave no stone unturned to figure out how we are going to ensure food security for our children and grandchildren and beyond.  

Agricultural production is at the heart of food security. For 10,000 years, farmers have worked in the trenches to enhance agricultural production to feed themselves and the world. As agricultural scientist and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug once said, “There are no miracles in agricultural production.”  

Farmers combat the forces of nature to painstakingly grow, modify and select the best, safest and most sustainable crop plants to feed the world. At the turn of the 20th century, each farmer produced enough food to feed four people. In America today, each farmer produces enough food to feed 150 people. 

This remarkable growth in agricultural productivity has been driven by agricultural research leading to improved crop varieties and agronomic practices. However, a typical subsistence farmer in the developing world is still only able to feed a few people. If we’re to empower these farmers to produce more and feed more people while using fewer natural resources, the world must embrace newer, safer and more sustainable technologies. 

Agricultural biotechnology is playing, and will continue to play, a crucial role in this effort. As citizens, we must become educated about the technology and where it fits into the overall goal of more productive sustainable agriculture. 

As a scientist and a lead teacher for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s “Ag Biotech Industry in the Classroom” summer workshops for NC high school science and ag CTE teachers, I feel privileged to be a part of this global effort. Whether it is working with the teachers on laboratory techniques in biotechnology, sharing knowledge about molecular genetics, discussing perspectives on biotechnology, or learning from the teachers about their classrooms, this week is always a highlight of my year!

Karthik Aghoram, Ph.D., is an associate professor of biological sciences at Meredith College in Raleigh. His doctoral research at Florida State University focused on identifying drought-responsive genes in plants. His post-doctoral work at North Carolina State University focused on characterizing drought-response proteins and identifying genetic markers for beneficial oil traits in soybeans. At Meredith, he teaches cell biology and biochemistry, and serves as the chair of health professions advising. During his free time he likes to garden, cook, hang out with his family, and take road trips.


Pretty Impressive.

Great contributions, KA!

Nice article

Wow! Great job Karthik!

Great Sir! Impressive.

Good work there Sir!. It would be interesting to know sometime from you how this is proceeding in developed economies like yours. Back here in the last decade or so (if not scores of years), hybrid seeds have taken the growth path of Indian food grain & vegetable to unprecedented productivity. Nunhems, Syngenta, Seminis, US Agriseeds are all present in this market with a small space by our Group under JK Seeds in the market. Would really sometime want to know your thoughts on the various aspects that affect the spread of this awareness as you spoke about 9Bn people. We have political & legal angle to it for aversion to GM (a small drive of 'Organic') products. However with 15% of GDP dependency on Agri in India, it poses a major economic and social (land holding/ urbanization) challenge to growth. Although, am not so much into it, would be interesting to learn where this study is leading on the spectrum of climate (warming/ soil/ water) and technology (pest resistance and other stresses) changes that have happened and your erudite group think is going. Amazing work, humane and forward looking. My great regards....Naivedhya

Nice article

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