Thursday, September 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

UCD taps Beachy to lead World Food Center

Beachy2W

Roger Beachy, right, the founding director of the World Food Center at UC Davis, receives congratulations from Karen Ross, left, California director of food and agriculture; Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | November 01, 2013 |

As UC Davis faculty sketched an umbrella organization bringing together research in food, agriculture and health to address world hunger, Chancellor Linda Katehi often found herself on the phone, asking the advice of Roger Beachy.

“I started speaking with him to get an idea, ‘Is this going to be useful? Will people be interested? Will this center be in a position to solve a big problem?’ ” Katehi said. “He helped us, with his perspective, in putting it together.

“Then when we started thinking, we need a founding director, it became obvious that he would be one of the people who could play that critical role.”

On Thursday, inside the Jackson Sustainable Winery Building, the chancellor announced that UCD had got its man:

The university’s new World Food Center will be led by Beachy, former U.S. Department of Agriculture chief scientist and the first director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

He said he accepted the position because of pressing global needs. Chief among them: increasing global food production by 70 percent by 2050, in order to feed 9 billion people.

“I expect the World Food Center to become perhaps the strongest university-affiliated institution of its type in the world, because of the vision and because of the outstanding faculty that are here on which this institute will build,” Beachy said.

Katehi described a center in which senior fellows from around the world work alongside UCD scientists, guiding policy as well as generating knowledge.

“This center required a very unique director,” she said. “It’s like a startup — it’s not a traditional university center. It is true that in a university environment the structures that we have developed are very top-down, many times very bureaucratic.

“This one has to be a new structure. It has to be very lean. It has to have the ability to encourage people to think out of the box. It has to be versatile in many ways. And it has to be effective.”

Beachy, Katehi said, “will give us the profile and visibility we need to get the center fully established, endowed and staffed, and, of course, recognized not just here locally, but around the world, for its impact.”

Beachy built his reputation as a plant pathologist. While he was a professor and director of the Center for Plant Science and Technology at Washington University in St. Louis (1978-1991), he and his colleagues developed the first genetically modified crop: a disease-resistant tomato.

His discoveries there led to the development of disease-resistant potatoes, peppers, sugar beets and other vegetables and fruits.

He went on to head the Division of Plant Biology at The Scripps Research Institute (1991-98) in La Jolla, where he was also a professor of cell biology and co-director of a lab focused on tropical agricultural biotechnology. Beachy also served as founding president of the St. Louis-based Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (1999-2009) before going to Washington.

“I’ve learned how critical it is that researchers and scientists engage in and inform policy,” Beachy said. “Indeed, it is important that social scientists … interact with natural scientists in this important arena of food and agriculture which is so highly politicized, which has so many advocates for the wrong things.”

An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, Beachy received the prestigious Wolf Prize in Agriculture in 2001.

Since stepping down at USDA, Beachy has served as executive director of the Global Institute for Food Security in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Beachy’s USDA appointment unsettled critics of the genetically modified crops. A major funder of the Danforth Center, which he directed, is Monsanto Co., also headquartered in Missouri.

On Thursday, he described himself a “strong proponent of using a genetic approach to controlling pests and pathogens in our food crops, of using genetic approaches to make sure toxins and mycotoxins are not present, of using genetics to remove allergens and other harmful parts of plants.”

He cited research by wheat geneticist Jorge Dubcovsky as an example. Working with colleagues at UCD and Kansas State University, Dubcovsky has identified a gene resistant to stem rust, which causes large crop losses in Africa and Asia.

Beachy said his work over the next year will be to get the new center — for now, a center in name only — fully operational, raise money and build partnerships on and off campus, with industry, government and foundations.

The center’s associate director, who started on Aug. 1, is Josette Lewis, who grew up in Davis and earned a bachelor’s degree in genetics from UCD in 1988. She received her doctorate in molecular genetics from UCLA in 1998.

Lewis spent 16 years working for the U.S Agency for International Development, most recently playing a lead role in developing Feed the Future, the Obama administration’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Beachy will receive an annual salary of $212,000 for working 80 percent time, according to UCD. Lewis will be paid $153,500 annually.

State Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross said Beachy’s hiring gives the center “a jump-start.”

“I was so surprised when I heard that the chancellor had convinced Roger to do this,” Ross said. “He’s in demand. He’s a world-renowned scientist. The positions he’s served in, the work that he’s done, are so well-respected. It’s as much about the kind of person that Roger is — he’s a great scientist but he has a passion for feeding people that has driven everything he’s ever done.”

Added Ross, “Because of his reputation, which is based on real-world results, he’s going to have some immediate connections to potential partners that someone else might take a long time (to make). People will come to Roger. He commands that kind of respect on a global basis.”

Richard Michelmore, director of the UCD Genome Center, whose own research includes disease resistance in lettuce, said having Beachy as director will bring “more coherence” and coordination to the scores of food-related projects on campus.

Beachy also has the potential to bring in research dollars, which have become more difficult to find.

“You can have all the aspirations and goals you want, but you can’t print money,” Michelmore said. “As Roger points out, this is not cheap. Having an impact is very much driven by the opportunity and having the money to do something about it.”

— Reach Cory Golden at cgolden@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden

Comments

comments

Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    Jurors see Marsh questioned by police

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    Grace Garden: Five years of feeding the needy

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Bike sale on Friday will benefit King High

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A2

     
    Wildfire shows explosive growth

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Per Capita Davis: What to think

    By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A3

    International Festival moves to park for fourth year

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Essay contest underway

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Sudwerk Wet Hop Lager plants seeds for area hops rebirth

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Speakers plumb issues around the Constitution

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Governor signs bill to support state’s ailing bee population

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Backyard poultry symposium Sunday at UCD

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A5

    Forum will answer questions about new license law

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Australian pop band Dick Diver plays Third Space

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    RepowerYolo hosts solar seminar

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Local Girl Scouts are looking for a few good leaders

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A5

    Reneau, Silberstein will read their poetry Thursday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Parents host campaign coffees for Archer

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Nominate deserving volunteers for top citizen honors

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    PG&E, Dixon company unveil truck that can restore power

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    $12M earmarked for UCD life sciences center in Chile

    By Karen Nikos-Rose | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Forum

    She’s had it with his neglect

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Off-leash dogs are a danger

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Davis makes the NY Times

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Affordable housing affects health

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Choose to wipe out hunger

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    DHS girls pound Mustangs in the pool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Davis captures final nonleague volleyball outing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    DHS golfers blow past St. Francis

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devils blow out Marauders at Brown Stadium

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Youth softball: Hurricanes win one of two slugfests with Woodland

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    Youth roundup: These Diamonds are forever in the record books

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Baseball roundup: Duffy comes up big for Giants in Arizona

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    Young Devil harriers carry the day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Davis falls to Vintage in a JV shootout

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B3

     
    DHS girls tennis team stunned at Franklin

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    What’s happening, Sept. 18

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

     
    Students get into the act with Shakespeare

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Street-smart tips for safe cycling

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

     
    Eagle Scout project makes life easier for Yolo Basin volunteers

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    .

    Arts

     
    Wineaux: Back and forth in the high and low debate

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A9

    Catie Curtis brings folk-rock ‘Flying Dream’ to The Palms on Friday Sept. 19

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Jean Botelli

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, September 18, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6