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UC Letter to Albany Regarding Gill Tract: Occupy the Farm Is 'Direct Threat' to Academic Freedom

The university has removed winter greens planted by Occupy the Farm.

The University of California, Berkeley issued the following letter Friday: 

To: Members of the Albany City Council, and the Albany Community at large 

From: J. Keith Gilless. Dean, UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources 

As we move into the fall season I want to provide you, our neighbors, with an update on current and planned activities on the Gill Tract. Over the course of the last few weeks, our researchers have completed work that was underway during the growing season and now, as I’m sure many of you have noticed, our staff has begun to prepare the fields for the winter. As I outlined in my last letter on September 18th, next spring we will be using all of the growing grounds in order to accomodate existing research and teaching endeavors, as well as our newly expanded program dedicated to the investigation of food systems and food security issues. We have been removing all drip irrigation and mulching, mowing remaining plant material, and turning over the soil with tractor-towed discs in order to prepare the flelds for a winter cover crop that will replenish soil nitrogen and add organic material to the ground. 

[Read all of Albany Patch's Occupy the Farm coverage]

Much of our planning process for the next growing season is focused on work already underway at our emerging program in urban food systems and food security. This program is being spear-headed by existing faculty and will receive further support in the coming years by the addition of a new Cooperative Extension (CE) Specialist for the Berkeley Campus and 3 CE Advisors in the Bay Area. These positions were approved by the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, demonstrating our commitment to research, teaching and extension in this rapidly evolving area of academic and social interest. 

We will continue to work collaboratively with members of the Albany community and the Albany City Council as we move forward with the exciting work of developing a program that will benefit communities throughout the Bay Area, California and beyond. I remain interested in and committed to developing partnerships that could allow for significant community participation in agricultural activities on the Gill Tract. 

I must reiterate how unfortunate it is that members of the group Occupy the Farm have continued their illegal incursions onto the Gill Tract to engage in unauthorized use of University resources. In mid-September we gave them advance notice that all of the growing grounds would need to be planted with a cover crop this winter, yet in recent weeks they have continued with their unauthorized planting. I truly regret that they chose to spend their time and efforts on planting that we have had to disc under, rather than seek ways to work with my college and the community. Their disregard for the rights of our research community and programmatic development activities are a direct threat to both academic freedom and our capacity to fulfill the university's mission. 

I remain committed to moving forward in a manner which respects all voices and perspectives in the Albany community, and honors past, present and future democratic community processes.

Old MacDonald November 21, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Jack, its not my job to pablum-feed you information you can easily find in a google search. Maybe Damon can help. Damon, Jack seems to think Sarah Hake grew her GMO switchgrass somewhere other than the Gill Tract-- perhaps you could offer your scientific expertise on that possibility?
M luudensis November 21, 2012 at 04:18 AM
It seems Old McD's still has not read the article. Which states the location of the research, the USDA building. The article is really not overly scientific and quite easy to understand; I'm still a little confused as to why you cite something you have not read? Common practice I guess.
Jack Osborne November 21, 2012 at 04:21 AM
@Old MacDonald: You'll find that in order to have any credibility on a topic you need to be able to take the time (moments, if your claim is correct) to support your position with a few valid references. And now you are arguing against the one reference you've provided. Until you're willing to put in some effort and not just throw down accusations, no one is going to take you seriously. Or bother to respond to you further.
Damon Lisch November 21, 2012 at 03:59 PM
@Old Macdonald. It is a matter of public record that no GMOs of any kind, corn or switchgrass, are grown at Gill. All the experiments involving switchgrass are done in greenhouses, not the Gill tract, because we are not allowed to grow GMOs at Gill. Now, here is my concern. I suspect that you know all of this, since it's pretty easy to find out, and I'm sure you know that there are environmental extremists who have an almost religious certainty about the dangers of any GMOs, of any kind, and who are willing to destroy any research that they don't approve of. By constantly implying that our work is part of some kind of University-corporate evil plot to foist GMOs on the world, you put my work at risk, you put me at risk, and you put my students at risk. By doing that, you dishonor yourself and your movement. When you first occupied my research field, you told us that you had nothing but respect for the scientists you were displacing. When we had the temerity to object to your plans, you started a smear campaign which has continued unabated for the past several months, something that you even had the gall to warn us of before you started doing it, as in "play ball, or else". It's funny. I've read about this kind of bare-knuckled politics for years, but I've never actually seen it up close and personal. It's been an education, for me, and I hope for all the members of our community.
Donna Lyle January 11, 2013 at 12:54 AM
"Hard on Cal"? That's quite amusing!

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