Hear the Conversation 24:50 – 14.2 mb mp3
“I’ve had the opportunity to travel for Michigan State to Africa, South Asia and India. We’re everywhere,” Brad Day, associate professor and department chair for research in MSU’s Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences tells Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis on MSU Today. “When you get off an airplane in India wearing an MSU logo, you’re a celebrity.”
Day and his team are unlocking the secrets of plants to understand how they fend off diseases, survive freezing temperatures or droughts, and they test them using state-of-the-art instrumentation, like MSU’s Growth Chamber Facility. It’s the largest of its kind at any university in the world, and it allows for the replication of the growing conditions and climate anywhere or anytime: past, present, or future.
“In Michigan we have a responsibility to protect what we have. We have over 200 crops grown in Michigan and 20 percent of the world’s fresh water touching Michigan. How do we preserve the resources we have in the face of climate change and pathogens that move as freely around the world as we do?
“One of the important things we need to begin thinking about is not only how do we grow the right crop in the right location, but how do we grow all crops in any location.”
On the controversial issue of GMOs, Day says “We’ve been fortunate in the United States that we’ve been able to communicate as scientists to the general public at a level that at least people are willing to listen. In Europe it’s a much different situation. They don’t want any DNA in their food.
“That’s a little short sighted because we’re in an awesome period of time where we can take advantage and speed up the process.”
Day says there will be 9 billion people on the planet by 2050.
“How are we going to feed that many people with the same amount of land? The statistics say we need to double the amount of food we produce just to catch up and meet the demand.
“People have been breeding plants for millennia, and who’s to say they were doing it right the whole time? They were doing it right for the environmental conditions they had. The climate two hundred years ago was very different than it is now. We can’t go back and undo or redo what they’ve done, but with these new technologies we can go in and discover what they’ve done using ancient species.”