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Chief USDA scientist visits campus

May 22, 2012

Catherine Woteki, chief scientist for the Department of Agriculture, visited MSU and toured the new Molecular Plant Sciences Building on Tuesday morning.

Woteki came to East Lansing to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the USDA, as well as to check on the progress of MSU’s grants in the agricultural field.

“It is important to see how funding we provide is being put to use,” she said.

Layne Cameron, science and technology writer for MSU News, said although there would not be any new grants announced, it is a big deal Woteki is visiting.

One grant in particular is very important to MSU’s research.

The RosBREED project mission works to combine genetic research with traditional breeding practices to make crops more profitable and enjoyable.

Woteki said the grant for the RosBREED project is a multiyear and multi-institution grant worth more than $14 million and is in the third of four years of research.

“We are looking to use tools of genetics and genomics to help make farmers more profitable,” she said.

Woteki said insights from genetics can help decrease resistance from pesticides, allowing the farmers to spray the crops less.

“(Fruits) are more desirable because of less pesticides,” she said.

Cameron said the USDA has supported MSU in the past.

“The USDA has always had strong ties with MSU,” he said.

Woteki also stressed the importance of continuing to educate students about food safety and research.

“We really want to encourage students to study agricultural sciences,” she said.

Woteki said that students graduating in the agricultural discipline have a placement rate of over 90 percent.

“It’s a good chance for a job and meaningful work,” she said.

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