College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

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April 29, 2013

UC researchers are engineering the tobacco plant to produce biofuels

By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

tobacco-energy-crop310.jpgTobacco plants genetically modified to produce biofuels. PHOTO: Anastasios Melis, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

Once celebrated as an economic mainstay, the tobacco industry has been hard hit by health concerns, bans, lawsuits and the social stigma of cigarette smoking.

Now, UC researchers are testing the plant’s potential to be genetically modified in order to produce socially acceptable bio-fuels to power airplanes, cars and trucks. Preliminary results are encouraging, but more research is required before tobacco can be commercially farmed as an energy crop to meet the demand for alternatives to fossil fuels.

The effort hinges on the introduction of genes, primarily from algae that turn sunlight into oil, into the cells of tobacco leaves. The researchers hope that the modified cells can be used to grow mature plants that make the same kind of oils that algae do.

Read the full story at the source.

Watch a video about this research.
Read New York Times blog posting.

April 23, 2013

Do Western Audits Protect Chinese Workers?

By Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley Media Relations

Labor conditions at manufacturing firms in China have recently come under increased scrutiny – and audits.

Auditing of worker conditions at manufacturing firms in China provides little help for Chinese laborers, according to a new paper by economists Guojun He and Jeffrey Perloff at the University of California, Berkeley.

Labor conditions at manufacturing firms in China have recently come under increased scrutiny – and audits.

The study, published in the spring issue of the journal Industrial and Labor Relations Review, found that more than half of Chinese employees in audited firms worked more than the legal limit of 44 hours per week. Between one-third and one-half of those working overtime did not receive legally required overtime wages for the extra hours.

“Unfortunately, auditing of working conditions by Western or Chinese firms has little effect on wages or overtime hours,” said Perloff, a UC Berkeley professor of agricultural and resource economics.

Apple, Nike and many other Western companies have been criticized for ignoring the plight of their subcontractors’ workers in China and elsewhere. Apple was put under the spotlight recently after reports surfaced of worker abuse at Foxconn Technology Group, a major Chinese manufacturer of iPhones, iPads and other consumer electronics.

Continue reading "Do Western Audits Protect Chinese Workers?" »

A Window Into the Pre-Vet Life

AmandaWongThe website ValuePenguin launched its Future of Veterinary Care series with an interview with Amanda Wong, a junior in the Molecular Environmental Biology major. Wong is vice president, webmaster, and historian at the Cal Pre-Vet Club, and has experience with small and zoo animals.

The series will feature interviews with students across the nation’s pre-veterinary and veterinary programs to learn more about their experiences and paths towards becoming certified veterinarians.

Wong: "My experience with pre-veterinary medicine ... has been both challenging and positive. While the coursework is very rigorous and the academic environment is extremely competitive, I have found support in the Pre-Vet Club on campus. By surrounding myself with peers aiming toward a similar goal, I’ve been able to build a friendly support network."

Read the full interview.

April 18, 2013

CNR Junior Wins Truman Award

By Roibín Ó hÉochaidh, UC Berkeley News Center

Rebecca_Peters.jpgUC Berkeley undergraduate Rebecca Peters has landed a prestigious Truman Scholarship in recognition of her leadership potential as an agent of change and commitment to making a difference in the world through public service.

Peters, whose classroom work and field research focus on issues of water security, management and equity, is one of 62 “exceptional college juniors” nationwide selected last week as 2013 Harry S. Truman scholars.

The prestigious prize comes with a sizable financial award — up to $30,000 for graduate studies — and is rounded out with valuable government internship, leadership-training and postgraduate research opportunities in Washington, D.C. Scholars also receive supplemental financial support and priority admission at some leading graduate institutions.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 to encourage future “change agents” of America. The awards program recognizes college juniors with outstanding leadership potential who are committed to careers in government, nonprofit, education and other public-service sectors.

“It’s very exciting and humbling at the same time because this kind of honor doesn’t mean you kick back and relax,” says Peters, who is pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree in society and environment through the College of Natural Resources and the interdisciplinary international development and economics.

“For me,” she adds, “it means these people are investing in me and I have to work all the harder to justify their support.”

Continue reading "CNR Junior Wins Truman Award" »

April 9, 2013

“Perfect Storm” of Climate Change and Population Growth Brewing in African Sahel, Experts Warn

Ann Brody Guy, College of Natural Resources

The vast region of Africa known as the Sahel will descend into large-scale drought, famine, war and terrorist control if immediate, coordinated steps are not taken to avert the perfect storm of climate change and the most rapidly growing population in the world, a group of experts from the University of California, Berkeley, and the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), concluded in a report released today, which summarizes findings from the first international, multidisciplinary meeting on the region.

“The collision of population growth and climate change will lead to the misery of tens of millions of people and reach well beyond the region,” said Malcolm Potts, a professor of public health and lead author of the report. There’s been extraordinarily little investment in the region, said Potts, an obstetrician and family planning expert who was among the first researchers to identify and address the AIDS crisis in Africa. “AIDS killed 30 million people, but the disaster in the Sahel will be larger than that.”

The Sahel is a three million square mile band of arid and semi-arid land stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and bordering on the Sahara desert. The United Nations projects that the population will leap from 100 million today to 340 million in 2050; there were just 30 million people in the Sahel in 1950.

Ethopian girl carries water to her village

The report summarizes a September 21, 2012, conference held at UC Berkeley and cohosted by Berkeley and the Kenya-based AFIDEP. It was the first such meeting to be convened on the collective effects of the problems facing the region, and proposed solutions. Working together, experts in demography, agriculture, climate change, national security and terrorism, women’s issues and Africa had alarming findings, including:

-Child marriage is common in the region, and a girl who is married in her early teens is unlikely to be able to learn to use family planning

-More frequent droughts caused by climate change will lead to significant starvation rates and fighting over diminishing resources.

-Unstable conditions are already breeding grounds for terrorism; increased instability will lead to a series of failed states, safe haven for terrorist activity, and, very likely, prolonged war.

Continue reading " “Perfect Storm” of Climate Change and Population Growth Brewing in African Sahel, Experts Warn" »


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UC researchers are engineering the tobacco plant to produce biofuels
Do Western Audits Protect Chinese Workers?
A Window Into the Pre-Vet Life
CNR Junior Wins Truman Award
“Perfect Storm” of Climate Change and Population Growth Brewing in African Sahel, Experts Warn


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