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NCGA urges House to protect genetic research for vital crops

The National Corn Growers Association has asked members of the U.S. House of Representatives to protect the focus of the National Plant Genome Research Program on crops that are “agronomically important” — plants grown to bring value back to the consumer and the taxpayer, as stated in the program’s original intent and mandate.

Pam Johnson, a farmer from Floyd, Iowa, and chairwoman of NCGA’s Research and Business Development Action Team, presented testimony to the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations subcommittee and discussed the program’s successes, which led to the announcement in February of the completion of a draft sequence of the corn genome.

“This high-quality genetic map is a foundation and the first step in creating a robust pipeline of scientific knowledge and innovation on a pathway to application and crop improvement,” Johnson said. “Access to the information encoded in the corn genome will improve water and nitrogen efficiencies, help plants cope with challenges from disease, pests and adverse weather, and allow us to tailor the crops we grow to specific end users.”

Johnson said she fears efforts to shift the program within the budget structure of the National Science Foundation could lead to reduced funding for the program, and urged the subcommittee to include in the fiscal 2009 Science, State, Justice and Commerce appropriations bill, language that secures the $101.22 million National Plant Genome Initiative budget to be applied exclusively to species of economic importance, keeping in line with the original intent of the program.

She ended her testimony by saying this effort is especially critical at this time in history, when the growing global population looks to corn and other plants to meet demands for food, feed, fuel and fiber.

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