The Food Genome Project; November 1997; Scientific American Magazine; by Beardsley; 1 Page(s)
Aging congressmen have been generous in their support of genomic research that might help what ails them. Now lawmakers are being asked to extend that bounty to crops and farm animals. Spurred by pressure from the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) for an initiative to sequence corn genes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is cooking up a $200-million National Food Genome Strategy. That sum, to be spent over four years, would study the DNA of plants, animals and microbes to "enhance the usefulness" of economically important species. A Senate committee has approved the plan in principle.
The proposal still has a long way to go in Congress, but there seems to be strong support for a coordinated attack on the genomes of species that humans rely on for food and fiber. Although the effort to sequence the human genome only recently moved into high gear, early phases of that project, which focused on mapping the locations of genes and different kinds of markers, produced valuable information that promises huge gains for medicine. Boosters of the food genome plan maintain it could lead to comparable leaps forward for agriculture by making it easier to produce genetically altered animals and plants.