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NAMA Millers Fund Global Oat Research Project to preserve the future of U.S. oats and promote innovation

October 14, 2009

Washington, DC – October 14, 2009 – NAMA (North American Millers’ Association) oat millers have pledged $510,000 to the “North American Collaborative Oat Research Enterprise” (North American CORE) a global oat research project that will substantially improve the genetic map of oat and could, for the first time, produce a complete map.  The entire oat research community and stakeholders have come together collectively to support the project. It promises to transform the future of oats by giving oat breeders the ability to make marker-assisted selections, growers another crop option, millers greater oat availability and consumers continued access to a safe, heart-healthy, whole-grain food product.

The plan taps resources from across the globe. Team members include scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service, Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and universities across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, and South America. Led by Dr. Eric Jackson, a research molecular biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service in Aberdeen, ID, the project will reach across borders to connect researchers, scientists, and students over a three year duration.

In addition to NAMA’s oat millers’ contribution of $510,000, the project will receive $450,000 from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) funded through the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, and $318,000 from General Mills, Inc. NAMA applauds AFRI and General Mills for their generous contributions. Without federal and private funding, oat improvement can not be sustained and oats can not remain a viable crop. Dr. Ed Kaleikau, the national program leader for AFRI, said “This project will provide a much needed resource for the oat genetics and breeding community and is the next logical step in advancing oat genomics. The team is highly qualified to undertake the marker development, and there are partnerships in place to immediately make use of the resource.”

Basic research in oats has not kept pace with research in other crops. As a consequence, oat production has become less economically viable relative to other production options. Production has declined to the point where the U.S. is highly dependent on imports to satisfy consumption.

Mapping the oat genome is important to the preservation of U.S. oats and it is vital for innovation. Dr. Jackson said, quoting the barley Coordinated Agricultural Project, “Having markers in the genome for breeders is like having highways signs for drivers. Today, there are very few road signs and an incomplete map.” Dr. Jackson hopes to identify new ways of measuring traits and to use the markers to develop new varieties with positive health benefits, like reducing childhood obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

NAMA is the trade association representing 48 companies that operate 170 wheat, oat and corn mills in 38 states and Canada. Their collective production capacity exceeds 160 million pounds of product each day, more than 95 percent of the total industry production.

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CONTACT: Terri Long, Director of Communications
202.484.2200, ext.11
tlong@namamillers.org

The North American Millers’ Association prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital or family status, age, disability, political beliefs or sexual orientation. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact NAMA at 202.484.2200 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write to Betsy Faga, President, 600 Maryland Avenue SW, Suite 825W, Washington, DC, 20024 or call 202.484.2200 ext. 13. NAMA is and equal opportunity provider and employer.

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