- Innovators Project
Can This Scientist Unite Genetic Engineers and Organic Farmers?
Pamela Ronald isolates genes in rice that feeds millions. Her integrative approach to agriculture could be an even bigger game-changer.
DAVIS, CaliforniaEighteen scientists are sitting in a lab, talking about new ways to feed the planet. These are some of the world’s foremost experts on rice. Most of them are from China. Nearly all of them are men.
But it’s an American woman—tan and fit at 54, with gray-brown hair and bright green eyes—who clearly runs the show. Her name is Pamela Ronald, and this is, after all, her laboratory.
Ronald is a plant pathologist and geneticist—a professor at the University of California, Davis whose lab has isolated genes from rice that can resist diseases and tolerate floods. When those genes are inserted into existing rice plants, they help farmers grow high-yield harvests in places where the crop is a