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Posts Tagged: Peggy Lemaux

Scientists brew up a new way to reach the public

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A group of UC graduate students, led by UC Cooperative Extension biotechnology specialist Peggy Lemaux, is making science more accessible to the public by hosting nighttime lectures at Bay Area beer pubs, reported Nicholas Iovino of Courthouse News Service. The monthly talks have tackled topics ranging from microbial bacteria to the search for extraterrestrial life.

The PubScience lecture series grew out of an initiative at UC Berkeley called the Communication, Literacy and Education for Agricultural Research (CLEAR) project. Lemaux launched the project three years ago with a $103,000 grant from the UC Global Food Initiative. CLEAR reaches out to students, members of the community and policymakers.

“If we're not telling people about what we're doing and why they should care, then it's going to be really easy to cut funding for science,” Lemaux said.

Peggy Lemaux started CLEAR by offering a free pint to pub patrons who asked a question about science.

The CLEAR group has grown exponentially since its inception. Lemaux believes the election of President Donald Trump and the policies that stem from his administration's denial of climate change helped spark a renewed interest in communicating science to the public. 

“The group was much smaller before Trump was elected,” Lemaux said. “Seeing the rise of political extremism driven by misunderstanding of science was a huge factor.”

 

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2018 at 2:22 PM
Tags: Peggy Lemaux (5)
Focus Area Tags: Innovation

Science and public opinion square off in GMO debate

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UC scientists are studying sorghum genetics to understand plant drought tolerance. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The biggest disconnect between science and public opinion is the differing view on genetically modified foods, according to Alison Van Eenennaam, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources specialist in animal genetics. Van Eenennaam was quoted in a story reported by Dave Marquis of ABC 10 News in Sacramento.

Van Eenenaam examined 20 years of records on the health and production of livestock populations eating GMO feed and has not found any measurable trends or changes.

"And those field observations agree with the many hundreds of carefully controlled studies that have been done by researchers globally," she said.

The story also raised consumer concerns about genetically modified foods. A Sacrament shopper interviewed for the story said she believes farmers are spraying more pesticides on GMO crops. Van Eenennaam confirmed that crops modified to resist herbicides have encouraged greater use of herbicides and some weeds have become resistant to herbicides as a result. 

"But I would argue that the trade-offs haven't been that significant and, unfortunately, this public concern around it is forestalling the development of what I would argue is much more sustainable plant and animal species," she said.

In her Twitter feed, Van Eenenaam provided links to additional information about the impact of current GMO crops.

One possible benefit of GMOs is helping crops adapt to a warmer world resulting from global climate change, reported Matt Weiser on Vox.

For the article, Weiser spoke to Peggy Lemaux, UC ANR Cooperative Extension biotechnology specialist based at UC Berkeley. Lemaux is the lead researcher on a project aimed at engineering drought resistance into crops — in this case, sorghum. Her goal is to discover how epigenetics, the process by which environmental change triggers new genetic functions, could be used to improve drought tolerance.

If she and her colleagues can figure this out for sorghum, it could be applied to other species such as tomatoes and rice, also part of Lemaux's research, through genetic engineering or by inducing mutations using radiation or chemicals.

Posted on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 11:13 AM
Tags: Alison Van Eenennaam (1), GMOs (2), GMOs (2), Peggy Lemaux (5)

UC researchers try to make biofuel in tobacco plants

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Peggy Lemaux
UC researchers are testing tobacco's potential to be genetically modified in order to produce biofuel, reported Louis Sahagun in the Los Angeles Times' ScienceNow blog.

“The beauty of our proposal is that carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere as a byproduct of combustion of these bio-fuels would be captured again by tobacco plants and, through the natural process of photosynthesis, be converted back into fuel," said Anastasios Melis, professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley.

Peggy G. Lemaux, UC Cooperative Extension specialist, Melis and Krishna Niyogi, Agricultural Experiment Station faculty in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley, are lead researchers in the project.

For more information and a video growing biofuel in tobacco leaves, see the UC Green Blog.

Additional coverage:

Lemaux and Eduardo Blumwald, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, were interviewed about biotechnology for a program that will air on the Bay Area’s KQED Channel 9 at 7:30 p.m. May 8. Lemaux and Blumwald will also participate in a "Google Hangout" at 11 a.m. May 8.

Attached Files
Peggy Lemaux
Posted on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 8:36 AM

UC looks into a 'healthier' way to use tobacco

Converting tobacco into cigarettes is a dwindling industry, so scientists are looking for an alternative use for the product grown by tobacco farmers, said an article in the New York Times Green Blog.

Peggy Lemaux, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley, shared the idea at the annual meeting of Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, an agency founded to nurture interesting energy ideas that may or may not work.

Some bacteria and algae turn sunlight into oils that can be burned in a car engine or used as raw material at a refinery in place of crude oil. A research consortium that includes the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC Berkeley and the University of Kentucky has taken genes from those types of bacteria and algae and inserted them into tobacco plants. In the first year of work, the efforts produced a crop and organic solvents were used to extract the oils out of the leaves.

For an overview, see the video below:

Posted on Monday, March 4, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Tags: biofuel (1), biotechnology (3), Peggy Lemaux (5)

Unfounded fear of GMOs keeps good food out of the marketplace

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The genetically modified Flavor Saver tomato was a marketplace flop.
Food created through genetic engineering and conventional breeding are safe and they deserve equal treatment in the marketplace, a UC Berkeley biotechnology expert told reporter Lisa Krieger of the San Jose Mercury News.

Peggy G. Lemaux, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department Plant and Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley, says fear of the unknown can stop genetic engineering from helping consumers. She genetically engineered wheat to produce grain that is less allergenic and might be better tolerated by people with wheat allergies. Because of anti-genetic-engineering sentiment, she said, companies that could take it to market did not embrace it.

"No one is interested in moving it to the marketplace," Lemaux said.

The Mercury News article was centered on Proposition 37, an initiative on California's November ballot that, if passed, will require labeling on genetically engineered food.

Posted on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 9:01 AM
 
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