Raleigh didn’t disappoint—as usual!  A meeting such as ours doesn’t happen by accident—because of the able assistance of Marietta and Michele, active board members, program chairs, and volunteers that step up when needed.  I am also indebted to our 2017 program chair Addy Alt-Holland (and others) who made announcements for me during the time when my voice was AWOL during the meeting.  It’s not every society that has the depth to make things happen in a way that seems normal despite the adjustments.  Movie night for the “Food Evolution” event was very well attended and appreciated despite the late hour and we also enjoyed the return of SIVB’s own band-Hobbit Nirvana who entertained us before the movie.  Yes, there was popcorn, dancing, talking, and more than a few individuals laughing out loud.

From plant propagation to organ replacement to gene editing our societies relevance has never looked better.  And what about “Plantimals” in which plant tissues are used as scaffolds for Human Tissue Engineering?  At first this idea sounds like a sci-fi movie gone bad—but in reality it draws upon a ubiquitous resource from plants that fills a need that is comparatively difficult in animals.  There was a time when plant propagation seemed so ‘yesterday’ but we heard about projects in Cannabis and Artemisia in which plant propagation can be used to increase specific genotypes that have high levels of specific metabolites that are not possible using conventional genetics.   We’ve only begun to learn about the possibilities of gene editing Crispr-Cas 9, not only what can be done at the gene level but also the quality control aspects that are not as well publicized.   And I would add that the flow cytometry workshop was very well attended and a positive addition to our meeting content and attendance.

Occasionally an opportunity to talk about science pops up in ‘real life’ when one of my friends opined on their complete reliance on organic fruits and vegetables.  We had a long, sometimes heated, conversation about how a scientist looks at choosing vegetables.  The Pew Research Center has published an extensive survey which included Attitudes and Beliefs on Science and Technology Topics (http://pewrsr.ch/1DkHVi4)1 on the great divide between scientists and the general public on technology and society.  Bottom line:  1. We need to talk with our non-science friends more often about science and 2.  We need more scientists!

Our society was asked (among many others) by the FDA to make comments about “Genome Editing in New Plant Varieties Used for Foods”, part of a process to determine how gene editing technology will be regulated in the future.  Because of it’s obvious impact on how we are able to use the newest technology, this was an opportunity to provide our opinions to the federal agencies who will be formulating regulation for public and private research efforts in this area.  The public policy committee and other interested members, Wayne Parrott and Ray Shillito in particular, drafted a response that is referenced here. Another issue under consideration is labeling for genetically modified organisms, which will be discussed in a later column.  Stay tuned!

We’re looking forward to the future and one way we might describe ourselves follows:  SIVB—motivate, assist, debate—MAD about science!

  1. Chapter 3: Attitudes and Beliefs on Science and Technology Topics Cary FunkAnd Lee Rainie.  Pew Research Center.  January 29, 2015.  (http://pewrsr.ch/1DkHVi4)

Dwight Tomes
SIVB President