Harry Klee, Ph.D, University of Florida, has organized an important Major Symposia for the Plant Biology 2016 conference on developing healthier foods. Joining Dr. Klee for the sessions will be:
- Andy Allan, Ph.D, Plant and Food in New Zealand
- Linda Bartoshuk, Ph.D, University of Florida
- Cathie Martin, Ph.D, John Innes Center
Here are just a few insights Dr. Klee would like to share with everyone about his upcoming session.
Q: How did you chose your topic for the symposia and why is it so important?
Dr. Klee: We feel that the loss of flavor quality is a critical problem in modern “industrial” crops. For too long, consumers have been left out of the priorities for plant breeding. This has occurred for multiple reasons. First and foremost, our food supply chain does not reward growers for quality attributes such as flavor. Growers are paid for the amount of product they deliver. Consumers have been irrelevant because quality does not translate into profit. Second, flavor and nutritional quality are not easy things to measure. They’re expensive and technically challenging. Most, if not all, breeding programs do not have the capacity to measure quality traits. Thus, quality has deteriorated over time through benign neglect. We can and have quantified that deterioration. The real world consequences are that people choose not to buy as much fruits and vegetables as they might because they are not happy with the flavor. This has a knock-on effect of reducing the quality of the diet of the average American. We think if we can give consumers more incentives to eat better tasting and more nutritious foods, they will make better decisions about their diets.
Q: What will be the highlights for attendees?
Dr. Klee: I think people will see several great examples of translational science – work that is founded on fundamental research that has been taken from the bench through to products that will potentially make a real difference in the world. One of my main motivations in organizing this symposium is to show our young scientists that you can do solid fundamental science that is both fun and has real world impacts. Flavor and nutrition are powerful tools to engage the public and show them what we as plant scientists can do for them. Everybody understands the importance of these issues and personally relates to them. We’ll show the attendees how patient, long term investment in complex problems can pay off.
Also, our non-plant speaker will provide a very engaging talk on the nature of flavor and taste. Dr. Bartoshuk is one of the world’s foremost experts on taste and smell and she’ll illustrate how she has collaborated with us to take apart a very complex trait in plants and help us reduce it to its simplest elements.
Q: Is there anything else you want attendees to know about the session?
Dr. Klee: We promise it will be scientifically and experientially excellent. Everyone will learn something useful from it.
For more information from Harry Klee, click here for his podcast: http://www.talkingbiotechpodcast.com/?p=204.