Genetically Engineered Disease Resistance in Crops


The committee held a webinar on Thursday, November 6 from 2-4pm Eastern to gather information from invited speakers on genetically engineered traits for disease resistance. The webinar featured:

Richard Sayre, Senior Research Scientist, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Consortium. bio

Dr. Richard T. Sayre is currently a senior research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the New Mexico Consortium (NMC). Dr. Sayre’s research interests include: characterization of primary processes in photosynthesis, algal and plant biotechnology, and nutritional biofortification of crop plants. Dr. Sayre completed his undergraduate degree in biology at Humboldt State University and his PhD at the University of Iowa and did postdoctoral work at Harvard University. From 1986 to 2008, Dr. Sayre was a faculty member and later chairman of the Department of Plant Cellular and Molecular Biology at Ohio State University. Prior to coming to LANL/NMC, Dr. Sayre was the director (2008-2011) of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St Louis. From 2005 to 2010, Dr. Sayre directed the BioCassava Plus Program funded by the Grand Challenges in Global Health Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The BioCassava Plus program focused on engineering cassava to provide complete nutrition for subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Sayre has also served as Principle Investigator and Director of the Center for Advanced Biofuel Systems, a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center, and he was the scientific director of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels from 2010 to 2013. He is currently the scientific director of the Realization of Algae’s Potential (REAP) algal biomass program managed by the DOE. Dr. Sayre has received several honors including: Distinguished Professor in the College of Biological Sciences, Ohio State University (2005-2008); honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa (2006); Fulbright Scholar at the Inst. Quimica, University Sao Paulo, Brazil (2007); selected by Nature as one of “Five Crop Researchers Who Could Change the World” (Nature 456: 563-569 [2008]); invited attendee at Google/Nature/O’Reilly SciFoo Camp for Innovators (2009); and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (2011). Dr. Sayre is an associate editor for Frontiers in Plant Sciences, founding editor of Algal Research, and co-organizer of the International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels and Bioproducts.

Anton Haverkort, Researcher, Wageningen University and Research Center. bio

Dr. Anton J. Haverkort coordinates potato research projects at Plant Research International – Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands and is extra-ordinary professor of crop and soil science at the University of Pretoria (South Africa). After graduation with a degree in ecology (MSc, cum laude), he worked for many years for the International Potato Centre in Turkey, Rwanda, Peru, and Tunisia to improve potato production through agronomy, breeding, and crop protection. He obtained his PhD at University of Reading (UK) on mathematical modelling of the influence of temperature and solar radiation on potato development and growth in tropical highlands. At Wageningen University he presently coordinates research on the development of a cisgenic marker-free late blight potato. He also carries out research on data management (ontology) in the French fries supply chain and leads sustainable potato production projects in eight countries on four continents aimed at the efficient use of resources (land, water, energy) and value creation through trade and processing. He has published over 90 scientific papers, five books, and hundreds of conference papers, book chapters, columns, and articles for professional journals. He is chairman or member of various potato committees in the Netherlands dealing with seed certification and genetic modification and was secretary general of the European Association of Potato Research. He travels frequently for potato research and consultancy for the industry and (inter)national governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Ralph Scorza, Research Horticulturist, USDA Appalachian Fruit Research Station. bio

Ralph Scorza is a research horticulturist and lead scientist for the Genetic Improvement of Fruit Crops Research Unit at the USDA-ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia. He received his BS and MS degrees agronomy and plant physiology, respectively, from the University of Florida and received his PhD in plant genetics and breeding from Purdue University. The broad objectives of his research program at USDA are to develop stone fruits with improved fruit quality, disease resistance, improved adaptability to climate change, and tree growth habits suitable for high yielding, mechanically integrated orchard systems. His breeding program combines classical and molecular-breeding approaches. Dr. Scorza and colleagues developed the genetically engineered plum Pox virus resistant plum cultivar ‘HoneySweet’. This plum variety is approved for commercialization in the United States and is the only temperate fruit variety in the world to have received such an approval. ‘HoneySweet’ has been field tested in Europe for almost two decades, and Dr. Scorza leads an international team that is working to submit ‘HoneySweet’ for cultivation approval in the European Union. Dr. Scorza is the recipient of the Flemming Award for “Exceptionally creative and useful research and leadership in the area of stone fruit breeding and genetics” and an ARS Senior Research Scientist of the Year Award, and has been co-recipient of three Secretary of Agriculture Honor Awards. He is a recipient of the Foreign Agricultural Service Distinguished International Service Award and the National Peach Council Carroll R. Miller Award. He has released 12 stone fruit varieties, is the co-inventor of four biotech utility patents, has authored over 200 research publications, and is a Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

Dennis Gonsalves, Director, USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (retired). bio

Dennis Gonsalves was born and raised on a sugar plantation in Kohala, Hawaii. He received his BS and MS degrees from University of Hawaii and his PhD in Plant Pathology in 1972 from University of California at Davis. He started his career at the University of Florida and joined Cornell University in 1977 and was appointed to one of the endowed Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor positions in 1995. Dr. Gonsalves led the research team that developed the transgenic papaya that saved Hawaii’s papaya industry from the papaya ringspot virus, for which they received the Alexander Von Humbolt Award in 2002 for the most significant agriculture accomplishment in the last five years. In 2002 he moved
to Hilo, Hawaii, to direct the USDA/ARS center and led the successful deregulation of the transgenic papaya in Japan in December 2011 and retired at the end of 2012. Prior to retiring, he started the effort by ARS and University of Hawaii to deregulate the Hawaiian transgenic papaya in China. He has extensive experiences in risk assessment and development of transgenic crops.

Presentations for each speaker start at the below timestamps:

  • Richard Sayre: 00:07:03
  • Anton Haverkort: 00:45:20
  • Ralph Scorza: 01:33:00
  • Dennis Gonsalves: 02:02:25

Follow Us