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USDA and DOE to Partner on Genomics Research; DOE to Tackle Soybean Genome

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy will share resources and coordinate the study of plant and microbial genomics, and the Department of Energy will tackle the sequencing of the soybean genome as the first project resulting from the agreement.

Soybean is of particular interest to DOE because it is the principal source of biodiesel.

The two agencies will establish a framework to cooperate and coordinate agency-relevant plant and microbial genome sequencing and bioinformatics that can serve the needs of the broader scientific community and solve problems that are important to each agency’s mission.

This agreement could help speed the deployment of emerging technologies, such as improved methods of gene identification and sequence assembly.

This agreement demonstrates a joint commitment to support high-quality genomics research and integrated projects to meet the nation’s agriculture and energy challenges.

—Dr. Colien Hefferan, USDA

The DOE Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) (earlier post) will sequence the genome of the soybean, Glycine max.

More than 3.1 billion bushels of soybeans were grown in the U.S. on nearly 75 million acres in 2004, with an estimated annual value exceeding $17 billion, second only to corn and approximately twice that of wheat. The soybean genome is about 1.1 billion base pairs in size, less than half the size of the maize or human genomes.

The soybean represents an excellent example of how DOE JGI is playing a key role in translational genomics, that is, applying the tools of DNA sequencing and molecular biology to contributing to the development of new avenues for clean energy generation and for crop improvement.

— DOE JGI Director Dr. Eddy Rubin

The USDA Agricultural Research Service started working on the soybean genome in 1999. In March 2005, USDA announced that it would team up with Genaissance Pharmaceuticals and Monsanto Company to map the soybean genome. (Earlier post.)



Brian Young

Waste of time. Soy makes inferior biodiesel. Spend resources on crops like rapeseed, mustard, even jatropha if the DOE is truly interested in research into fuel alternatives. USDA needs to assert themselves and think in the best interest of the United States, not agri-business. If this was framed as solely research for food production fine, but the DOE needs to spend energy research dollars in the right place.


I agree with Brian. Jatropha or algae would make much better subjects for GM yield research than soy.

Another advantage of jatropha or algae is that it does not consume prime agricultural farmland as soybeans do.

The soybean lobby had a hand in drafting this legislation. Too bad. It may be good news for the soybean industry, but not for USA energy independence or our agricultural product exports.

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