In this seminar, former CSIRO Chief Research Scientist TJ Higgins discusses the challenges and opportunities of gene technology for the developing world with focus on global trends of GM crops and recent developments for food legumes in Africa and India.
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) is an important source of food protein in sub-Saharan Africa. While many production constraints can be addressed successfully by conventional crop breeding, gene technology may play an important complementary role. The introduction of genes for pest resistance via gene transfer could complement classical breeding programs and a reproducible protocol for the genetic engineering of cowpea is now available. Recent research has demonstrated that two genes that protect cowpeas against a caterpillar and a bruchid pest successfully operate in field and storage conditions. There are challenges yet to be overcome before GM cowpeas reach farmers and consumers but gene technology is considered to enhance yield and storage success of cowpeas.
About the presenter
TJ is an Honorary Fellow at CSIRO Agriculture. His research focus is the application of gene technology for plant improvement, especially for protecting legumes from insect pests and enhancing nutritional quality for feed and food uses. A graduate from the National University of Ireland, he gained his PhD from the University of California, Davis, came to Australia as a post-doctoral Fellow at ANU and then joined CSIRO Division of Plant Industry(now Agriculture). He recently retired as a Chief Research Scientist and Deputy Chief of the Division.
His contribution to science has been acknowledged with the Rivett Medal from the CSIRO’s Officer’s Association, the Pharmacia-LKB Biotechnology Medal from the Australian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Goldacre Medal from the Australian Society of Plant Scientists. He is recipient of the Centenary Medal for his service to Australian society in plant biotechnology. TJ is a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.