Public Release: 

Integration of agriculture, medicine requires new ways of thinking

University of Minnesota

DENVER (Feb. 15, 2003)--As the links between foods and human health become ever clearer, so does the necessity of integrating gene-based agricultural and medical sciences research, according to Charles Muscoplat, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences. He will present his ideas on "Food and the New -Omics: Synthesizing a Food/Health Strategy" during a symposium, "Foods for Health: Integrating Agriculture and Medicine," from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. MST Saturday, Feb. 15, in the Colorado Convention Center, Denver, during the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

Advances in genomics--the study of how all genes in an organism function-- its sister science proteomics (how proteins function), and other new "-omics" sciences dealing with nutrition and metabolism are leading to a new understanding of how humans and other species interact with their food, medicines or other factors in their environments, said Muscoplat. Such studies have the power to explain on the molecular level why certain substances are good or bad for everybody; perhaps more intriguing, however, is their potential for explaining why individuals react to certain foods or drugs differently. The difference could be as benign as people's varying ability to appreciate black licorice to the often unpredictable responses to anesthetics and alcohol or susceptibility to cancer.

Deriving maximum benefit from knowledge of the relationships among plant-derived foods, nutrients, medicinals and human health requires interdisciplinary research in plant and human nutrition, gene functions and related sciences, taking into account the variations between individuals. Muscoplat cites the great potential to address diet and disease but cautions that product development, regulatory processes and consumer acceptance are realities that stretch the marketplace timeline far into the future.

Other speakers in the symposium are:

  • Charles J. Arntzen, Arizona State University: "When Agriculture and Medicine Merge."
  • Jeffrey Burkhardt, University of Florida: "Are We Asking the Right (Ethical) Questions?"
  • John Howard, independent consultant: "Reconstructing the Medicine Cabinet: Edible Vaccines and Plant-Based Therapeutics."
  • Samuel B. Lehrer, Tulane University: "Is Allergen-Free Food In Our Future?"
  • Catherine E. Woteki, Iowa State University: "Diet-Related Chronic Disease: Moving form Cause to Prevention."


    Embargoed until 9 a.m. MST (11 a.m. EST) Saturday, Feb. 15. A related AAAS news briefing, "Allergen-free Shrimp? Foods That Make Medicine," will be held at that time.

    Charles Muscoplat, dean, College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, 612-624-3009

    Carla Carlson, College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, 612-625-6755

    Deane Morrison, University News Service, 612-624-2346

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