Channapatna S. Prakash, Tuskegee University, USA
Dr. Channa S. Prakash Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Tuskegee University (USA) where he has served on faculty since 1989, is professor of crop genetics, biotechnology. Dr. Prakash’s research expertise is on genetic improvement research on food crops of importance to developing countries. His lab was among the first to develop transgenic sweet potato and peanut plants and conduct pioneering genomic studies on the peanut.
Dr. Prakash has been a global leader in enhancing the societal awareness of crop and food biotechnology issues around the world for nearly three decades. Dr. Prakash was recognized for his outstanding work on agricultural biotechnology outeach with the award of the prestigious 2015 Borlaug CAST Communication Award, by the Council of Agricultural Science and Technology which credited him as “arguably done more than anyone else in academia or industry to promote agricultural technologies that can help feed the world’s growing population.” He was also recognized by Huffington Post as among the Top 30 social influencers in biopharma and biotech. He has an active presence in the social media, impacting close to 2 million readers per month on Twitter (@agbioworld) and is globally ranked as number #1 influencer on ‘agricultural biotechnology’ issues. He also serves as Co-Editor-in-chief of a highly respected journal GM Crops &Food. In 2006, he was named one of the ‘Top Personalities Who have made the Most Significant Contribution to Biotech’ by Nature Biotechnology: Who's who in biotech - Some of biotech's most remarkable and influential personalities from the past 10 years. In 2005 he was named one of the 100 Top Living Contributors to Biotechnology by The Scientist (chosen by peers via polling)
Dr. Prakash is a leading proponent of science-based agricultural development, especially in the use of molecular techniques including genetically modified crops. He provides technical, societal and ethical perspectives on the issue through his lectures and writings and on social media. He was instrumental in catalyzing the scientific community in many countries to get involved in public outreach on agbiotech issues. He is a popular speaker and his views and writing are available in numerous newspapers and magazines. He has delivered nearly 1000 public lectures across 80 countries including venues such as Aspen Ideas Festival, World Food Prize, UN Forum on Sustainable Development, FAO, US Congress, and World Bank. He was invited three times to deliver lectures at the Vatican and was fortunate to have an audience with Pope Francis and explain to him the benefits of Golden Rice. He has won numerous prestigious awards including the Morrison-Evans Outstanding Scientist Award. He served as panel manager for the USDA’s biotechnology risk assessment grant program, chaired the minority affairs committee of the American Society for Plant Biology, and served on the USDA Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology with Ag Secretaries Dan Glickman and Ann Veneman.
Talk title: Crop gene editing and its potential role in advancing food security
Recent innovation in crop genetics including gene editing or genome engineering of crops especially with CRISPR/cas9 offers tantalizing possibilities to transform food and agriculture across the globe and thus help advance food security in the developing world. Gene editing involves directed alteration of the crop genome, and is relatively more precise and easier to use compared to the current genetically modified crop technology. Many scientists believe that gene edited crops offer vast potential to enhance farm productivity, reduce our reliance on agrochemicals, develop climate-smart crops; and develop foods with enhanced nutritional content. Gene editing does not necessarily entail use of foreign genes and thus eliminates the primary source of ire against this technology from its critics. Gene edited products are likely to fewer surprises or unknown effects, and thus may have a smaller regulatory footprint or cost as well, thus paving way for smaller companies and agricultural universities to commercialize their products. Consumers and critics of current agricultural biotechnology may also perceive gene edited products more favorably as products of minor alteration, lacking foreign genes. Greater societal acceptance of novel plant breeding, may result in harnessing of biotechnology potential to enhance global agriculture especially in the face of volatile changes in the climate. Increased public understanding of this technology's benefits and safety is critical to ensure its acceptance. Global scientific community can help foster this through proactive knowledge sharing with various stakeholders, increased interaction with the media and impacting policy makers through science-based information on the food and environmental safety aspects of this technology.
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