Breeding Crops for Enhanced Food Safety

Conference chair Maeli Melotto (Plant Sciences professor, UC Davis), Parag Chitnis (USDA NIFA deputy director), Gail Taylor (Plant Sciences chair and professor, UC Davis), and co-chair Allen Van Deynze (Plant Sciences researcher, UC Davis) at the Breeding Crops for Enhanced Food Safety conference at UC Davis. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)

Plant breeders and food safety experts conducted a two-day conference at UC Davis (June 5–6, 2019) to discuss issues relevant to food safety, including control of microbial contamination in produce throughout the food chain (seeds, field production, pre- and postharvest, packaging, distribution, marketing).

Maeli Melotto, a UC Davis Plant Sciences professor who focuses on plant-microbe interactions, plant defenses against human and plant pathogens, and bacterial pathogenesis, chaired the national meeting. Approximately 70 experts from multidisciplinary fields, including research, government, extension, and industry, attended the conference, and helped identify knowledge gaps and research priorities in breeding for crop safety. They addressed not only how to control and eliminate contamination, but how to incorporate traits into plants to reduce the pathogen load and toxins, and consequently the risk of foodborne illnesses.

In addition to presentations by experts, participants broke into groups to discuss food safety-related topics and new breeding strategies. Questions included what strategies are necessary to control foodborne illnesses, what directions are necessary in research, how do we select meaningful traits, and how do we bring this to a commercial reality?

With all of this information, a committee will now draft a white paper report on the conference findings. Additional submitted peer-reviewed papers will be assembled and included with the report in an online, open-access Frontiers Research Topic, “Breeding Crops for Enhanced Food Safety,” edited by Melotto, Wei Zhang, and Max Teplitski. (Information on submission deadlines).

The conference was funded with a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) competitive grant that focused on “Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production.” Working with Maeli Melotto on coordinating the conference were co-chairs Allen Van Deynze and Michele Jay-Russell, both at UC Davis. For more information, please visit the conference website.


(Article by Ann Filmer, Plant Sciences, UC Davis)

Ivan Simko, Richard Michelmore, Gail Taylor
Lettuce experts on breeding, genetics and postharvest at the conference: Ivan Simko (USDA), Prof. Richard Michelmore (UC Davis) and Plant Sciences Chair and Prof. Gail Taylor (UC Davis) at the Breeding Crops for Enhanced Food Safety conference at UC Davis. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)
Conference participants
Conference participants. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)
Conference participants.
Participants at the Breeding Crops for Enhanced Food Safety conference at UC Davis. (photo Ann Filmer/UC Davis)


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