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An Interview with Channa Prakash

by | Oct 29, 2021 | Interviews,

Channa  Prakash

Channa Prakash

Dean, College of Arts & Sciences at Tuskegee University
Key Topics:Agricultural Biotechnology, Sustainable Agriculture, GM crops, Developing World
Location:Tuskegee, AL, USA

Dr. Channa S. Prakash, is the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Tuskegee University (USA) where he has served on the faculty since 1989. He is a professor of crop genetics, biotechnology. Dr. Prakash’s research expertise is on genetic improvement research on food crops of importance to developing countries. His lab was among the first to create transgenic sweet potato and peanut plants and conduct pioneering genomic studies on the peanut.

Dr. Prakash has been a global leader in enhancing the societal awareness of crop and food biotechnology issues around the world for nearly three decades. Dr. Prakash was recognized for his outstanding work on agricultural biotechnology outreach with the award of the prestigious 2015 Borlaug CAST Communication Award, by the Council of Agricultural Science and Technology which credited him as “arguably done more than anyone else in academia or industry to promote agricultural technologies that can help feed the world’s growing population." Huffington Post also recognized him as among the Top 30 social influencers in biopharma and biotech.

He has an active presence in social media, impacting close to 2 million readers per month on Twitter, and is globally ranked as the number #1 influencer on agricultural biotechnology issues. He also serves as Co-Editor-in-chief of a highly respected journal GM Crops &Food. In 2006, he was named one of the ‘Top Personalities Who have made the Most Significant Contribution to Biotech’ by Nature Biotechnology: Who's who in biotech - Some of the biotech's most remarkable and influential personalities from the past ten years. In 2005 he was named one of the 100 Top Living Contributors to Biotechnology by The Scientist (chosen by peers via polling).

How did you get to become an expert in your key topics?

My background is in plant breeding and genetics. As agricultural biotechnology dawned in the mid-1980s, I got interested in this topic as I saw the immense potential in understanding crop genes at the molecular level, and how it would help us in developing improved crop varieties through gene transfer and genomics.
After my Ph. D. in Australian National University, I moved to the US as a postdoc at the University of Kentucky where I got my training in biotechnology. Then as a faculty member at Tuskegee University, I established a lab in crop biotech and worked on sweet potato and peanut genetics.

What sub-topics are you most passionate about?

Food security, public understanding of agricultural innovation, activist opposition to technology in farming.

Who influences you within these topics?

Many scientists and social media influencers impact me.

What challenges are brands facing in this space?

Genetically modified crops face tremendous opposition from certain groups who have an outsized impact on public policy in many countries especially in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Thus, an important solution to food security and sustainability has been denied.

What do you think the future holds in this space?

Innovation in gene editing, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, phonemics, and many other areas of crop genetics is surging forward at a lightning pace. Thus future holds good in leveraging technology to address problems in agricultural production across the globe especially in light of climate change and other challenges facing food production. There is an increasing role for science communicators to help public and policymakers understand new technologies and the benefits they bring to the table, and how they need to be managed through meaningful regulation and policies.

What brands are leading the way in this space?

There are many universities and public institutions along with private corporations leading the innovation in agricultural biotechnology across the globe.

If a brand wanted to work with you, which activities would you be most interested in collaborating on?

Podcasts, webinars, speaking opportunities, video interviews.

What are your passions outside of work?

Gardening, nature walks, reading.

What would be the best way for a brand to contact you?

By Email, or phone.

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