“Food for Thought” lectures explore biotechnology and environment


CORVALLIS, Ore. – The “Food for Thought” lecture series will begin its fifth season this November at Oregon State University, featuring national experts to discuss issues in biotechnology and sustainable agriculture.

All lectures will be held at LaSells Stewart Center on the OSU campus beginning at 7 p.m. They are free and open to the public, and will include time for audience discussion.

The first presentation will be on Tuesday, Nov. 3, by Dan Koeppel, author of “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World.” He will explore the banana’s history, cultural significance, and endangered future — taking listeners to banana plantations across the globe that are being destroyed by a fast-moving blight, and to the biotech labs where a race is on to save them.

Koeppel is a nature journalist who has written for the New York Times Magazine, Outside, Audubon, Popular Science, and National Geographic Adventure, where he is a contributing editor, and the author of “To See Every Bird on Earth.” He has also appeared on CNN and Good Morning America, and is a former commentator for Public Radio International's Marketplace.

Other lectures in this year’s series include:

  • Nov. 19: “Nine Billion Mouths to Feed: Agriculture’s Global Footprint,” by Jason Clay, senior vice president of market transformation at World Wildlife Fund. Clay’s lecture will focus on creating global standards of sustainability for producing and processing raw materials from plants, particularly in terms of carbon dioxide emissions and water use.
  • Jan. 19: “The Ethics of Modern Agriculture,” by Robert Paarlberg, a professor of political science at Wellesley College, and associate professor at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. The author of “Starved for Science: How Biotechnology is Being Kept out of Africa,Paarlberg will discuss why, after embracing agricultural science to become well-fed, those in wealthy countries are instructing Africans not to do the same.
  • Apr. 15: “The Future of Sustainable Agriculture,” by James E. McWilliams, an associate professor of American colonial and environmental history at Texas State University. McWilliams questions the idea that there was a “golden age” for American agriculture when farms were sustainable, challenges the current “food movement” as indulging in historical romanticism and  advocates that we go back to the past to achieve a sustainable future. McWilliams will present six ways by which agriculture can achieve a balanced, global food-production system.

This year’s series is co-organized by Steven Strauss, distinguished professor and head of the Outreach in Biotechnology Program at OSU, and John Lambrinos, assistant professor of landscape ecology in the OSU Department of Horticulture. 

The speakers will also give technical lectures on campus during their visits. More information can be obtained on the web at http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/orb/

The Food For Thought lecture series is supported by the American Society for Plant Biology, the Wait and Lois Rising Lectureship Fund in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, and the OSU College of Forestry.