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the next five to ten years? Or should we continue with the approach that the USDA has taken, which is investing in the Arabidopsis mapping activity and then continuing the across-the-board approach in other plant species?"
Or, as Dale Bauman, chair of NRC's Board on Agriculture, put it: "What are the lessons we have learned to date, and how can we use them?"
In particular, the participants in the workshop were asked to assume that an agricultural genome project will be established and to discuss what features such a project should have in light of experience with the Human Genome Project and other genetic research over the past decade or so. How should resources be allocated among the dozens of commercially important species? Which scientific strategies will give the greatest return on investment? Would it be useful, for instance, to develop target organisms besides Arabidopsis, delineating their genomes completely? How should an agricultural genome project be organized and coordinated? And are there other issues, such as ethical or social concerns, that should be considered? By talking about such issues ahead of time, it should be possible to avoid some of the mistakes of the past and to make the most of research in the future.
By the end of the workshop, several concepts and lessons from the past had emerged that were significant. No one disagreed that now is a good time to launch a broad, coordinated agricultural genome project A number of participants believed it should, for instance, be "multi-tiered," with the genomes of some organisms deciphered totally and others done to various degrees of completeness. Many participants also seemed to believe that the project should be planned in great detail before much money is spent on it, since timing and coordination among the different components will be a key factor in its effectiveness.
The following is a summary and synthesis of the discussions that took place during the workshop and of the recommendations offered by the various participants.