College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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March 31, 2011

Partnership to advance understanding of personal genomic variation

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations, UC Berkeley

Despite the fact that more than 3,000 people have had at least a portion of their genomes sequenced, and that a growing number of personal genomics companies are urging you to be next, scientists still have a poor understanding of what the differences in your genome really mean.

That, say University of California, Berkeley, scientists, is the impetus behind a new campus initiative to develop a pioneering software platform to analyze these differences and bring closer the era when one’s personal genome will be a starting point for health and medical advice.

“What we have now are numerous disparate sets of incompatible databases, and no common infrastructure for integrating and analyzing genetic variation,” said Steven E. Brenner, a UC Berkeley genomics professor in the Center for Computational Biology. “We are focusing on building a robust platform to identify the genetic basis of disease and inherited traits, as well as, ultimately, a resource that clinicians can use to inform their interpretation of genetic information for medical purposes.”

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Beyond Wine and Chocolate

By Sarah Henry, California Magazine

John Scharffenberger’s taste buds have been good to him. They guided him to success in his premium chocolate and sparkling wine companies, which he has since sold for millions. Scharffenberger established a U.S. audience for these gourmet goods in what had previously been a European-dominated luxury market.

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John Scharffenberger. Photo: Anne Hamersky

Today, the 59-year-old is taste-testing three decidedly different new ventures on the food front: a specialty meat, a fermented vegetable, and a humble little legume seeking serious artisan status. That last one may turn out to be his biggest challenge, given the American palate. This June, Scharffenberger ‘73 signed on as the CEO of the Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland, a small tofu factory that crafts products from organic, non-GMO soybeans sourced from cooperatives in the Midwest. The company makes fresh tofu, yuba (tofu skins), and soymilk, as well as prepared dishes such as spicy braised tofu, poached yuba loaf, and soy omelette.

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March 23, 2011

Japan's Nuclear Disaster Raises Concerns About Contamination of the Global Food Chain

By: William Lajeunesse, FoxNews


After the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, radiation contaminated 3 million acres of farmland. Up to 9,000 died or will die from thyroid cancer after drinking milk laced with radioactive iodine, according to World Health Organization estimates.

The radiation leaks at Fukushima don’t come close to that of Chernobyl. Still, Japanese officials admit their food chain is also contaminated with harmful levels of radiation, in some cases up to 90 miles from the nuclear site.

"You have to make sure that if there's a question about any aspect of the food supply that that part of the food supply doesn't reach consumers. That's the No. 1 objective," says Brian Wright, an agricultural economist at the University of California at Berkeley.

There are two risks: direct contamination from the radioactive fallout, like water supplies; or indirectly, when consumers eat foods from livestock consuming contaminated grasses or feed.

"I would say it's going to be a long time before you'll be able to eat either animals raised in that area or plants," says University of California Berkeley plant biologist Peggy Lemaux.

Continue reading "Japan's Nuclear Disaster Raises Concerns About Contamination of the Global Food Chain " »

Green chemistry conference highlights UC Berkeley’s unique approach

By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley Media Relations

The chemical industry is going “green” in a big way, marketing products as more sustainably produced, less toxic and recyclable.

Yet, the proliferation of green cleaning products, office supplies, packaging and appliances belies the fact that more than 80,000 chemicals with uncertain health and environmental impacts currently are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, with more discovered every day.

“Green chemistry involves discovering and implementing chemical processes and products that are safer, cleaner and more efficient,” said John Arnold, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the campus’s Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry (BCGC), which hosts its first national conference on Thursday, March 24.

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March 17, 2011

Look to overweight, not overseas, for source of U.S. health problems, says surgeon general

By: Carol Ness, UC Berkeley NewsCenter

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U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin came to Berkeley’s Alumni House Thursday to deliver her “vision of a healthy and fit nation.” But the day’s most burning health question, at least in the minds of the news media gathered at her subsequent press conference, was this:

Should people be worried about radiation from Japan’s ongoing nuclear crisis?

“No, they should not be fearful,” Benjamin declared. Radiation experts, she said, “have told us that harmful levels of radiation are not going to reach the United States or our territories, so there’s no reason to be fearful.”

Clarifying comments she made yesterday in San Francisco, the official billed as “America’s top doctor” said, “There is no reason to go out and buy or stockpile or start to take potassium iodide… You only do that when you’re at immediate risk and that immediate risk is not here now.”

If there ever is reason for concern, she added, government agencies monitoring the situation “will certainly get that message out to you very quickly. But right now you’re not at risk.”

The subject never came up in Benjamin’s 35-minute talk, which was sponsored by the School of Public Health and the College of Natural Resources. The surgeon general put Berkeley on her public-speaking itinerary at the invitation of Dr. Pamela Peeke, a Maryland physician who earned her B.S. from CNR and her master’s from the School of Public Health before going on to medical school. Peeke introduced Benjamin.

But first, public health dean Steve Shortell welcomed Benjamin both for her work improving health practices in vulnerable communities and as someone who “epitomizes the values that our school shares and the campus at large — of diversity, equity and inclusion, social justice and improving health for all.”

Continue reading "Look to overweight, not overseas, for source of U.S. health problems, says surgeon general" »

March 15, 2011

Group Seeks Forest Restoration to Cleanse Planet

By: The Associated Press, New York Times

Redwoods and sequoias towering majestically over California's northern coast. Oaks up to 1,000 years old nestled in a secluded corner of Ireland. The legendary cedars of Lebanon.

They are among the most iconic trees on Earth, remnants of once-vast populations decimated by logging, development, pollution and disease. A nonprofit organization called Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is rushing to collect their genetic material and replant clones in an audacious plan to restore the world's ancient forests and put them to work cleansing the environment and absorbing carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas largely responsible for global warming.

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March 14, 2011

Genetic technology boosts food production

By: Don, Curlee, Visalia Times-Delta

It looks like genetic technology will be responsible for the next big increase in food production, just in time to meet the world's exploding populations.

At least that's the way a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California and his professor see it. They have completed a study showing that genetically engineered plants also are resulting in farming practices that create less carbon dioxide than traditional farming methods.

Less CO2 means less climate change.

Steven Sexton is the Ph.D. candidate, and his professor is David Zilberman. Both are in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley. The results of their study were reported in the November/December issue of Update, published by the department.

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March 4, 2011

A Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation

The College of Natural Resources and the School of Public Health cordially invite you to attend a lecture by Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin Surgeon General of the United States

March 17, 2011
10:30 a.m
Alumni House
UC Berkeley

Questions, please contact Maya Goehring-Harris at mgoehring@berkeley.edu or 510-643-8091.

Continue reading "A Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation" »

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Partnership to advance understanding of personal genomic variation
Beyond Wine and Chocolate
Japan's Nuclear Disaster Raises Concerns About Contamination of the Global Food Chain
Green chemistry conference highlights UC Berkeley’s unique approach
Look to overweight, not overseas, for source of U.S. health problems, says surgeon general
Group Seeks Forest Restoration to Cleanse Planet
Genetic technology boosts food production
A Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation

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