Thursday, October 10
Tour 10. The Seed and Semen Bank
Thursday, October 10
1:00 pm - 5:00 pm


  • Mark Schapiro (Tour Leader) Author, "Seeds of Resistance," and Lecturer, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism


Protecting Our Food From Climatic and Other Catastrophes: Inside North America’s Biggest Repository of Seeds and Animal Germplasm

The converging forces of climate change and corporate consolidation are presenting unprecedented threats to the Earth’s ability to grow food. We’ll take an exclusive tour through a facility at the front lines of ensuring our ability to respond to these pressures — the USDA’s National  Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation, on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Here, just minutes from the SEJ conference hub in the Lory Student Center, is the oldest and largest repository of plant and animal DNA — aka, more than a million seed samples, and the germplasm and semen of beef and dairy cattle, chickens, turkeys and other commercial animals. This material is considered critical to enabling the food system to respond as conditions shift dramatically in this country and around the world.

We’ll take an exclusive tour of the facility guided by top scientists working with plant and animal genetics as the institution tries to address the accelerating pace of environmental change.

The tour will take roughly 2 1/2-3 hours, with stops at the the Lab responsible for tracking and storing germplasm for our nation’s beef, pork, chicken, turkey and other commercial animal industries; the lab where seed varieties are analyzed for their genetic composition and potential to address ongoing climatic, disease and pest pressures; and a tour through the cold vault containing more than a million samples of seeds and animal germplasm. Each will be introduced by the scientists overseeing different aspects of the work. Afterward, all scientists involved will be available for a more formal Q and A (questions are also welcome during the tour). Total tour time: 4 hours.

Among those we will encounter on the tour include: Dr. Christina Walters, a plant physiologist and supervisor at the facility; Dr. Gayle Volk, an expert on seed preservation; Dr. Colin Khoury, an expert on genetic centers of origin; Dr. Harvey Blackburn, an animal geneticist; and Dr. Cliff Richards, a population geneticist.

This tour is free. There will be no buses for this tour. Please find your own way to the SEJ registration desk on the third floor of the Lory Student Center before 1:00 p.m. We will walk over to the Lab. Space is limited so register early!

Sign up here. (You won't find this tour at the regular online registration site; however you must be registered for the conference to sign up for this tour.)

Note: This is a highly secure government facility; registration includes required email and phone contact information. At the lab, security requires a photo ID and signature upon check in. No purses, backpacks or heavy coats are permitted in the building.

Advance registration is required for all Thursday tours. Attendance on each tour is strictly limited, so registering early is important. All Thursday tours will return to the Lory Student Center at about 5:00 p.m.

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