Newsletter scientifique #11 - November 2012



The French Science Office would like to thank all of the partners and attendees to the 2nd Annual French American Science Festival, organized in partnership with Northwestern University and the Delegation des Alliances Francaises. The festival succeeded in reuniting scientific personalities to discuss science mediation and outreach programs through the theme of sustainable development for all. Students from Chicago and the Midwest learned about a variety of science fields through hands-on experiences.

We would like to bring your attention to the Partner University Fund call for projects, in cooperation with the Embassy of France in the US and the FACE Foundation. The application deadline is on January 7, 2013.

We want to thank our readers for following our newsletter throughout this exciting year filled with important scientific news and accomplishments. Since there will be no December issue, we take this time to wish you Happy Holidays and we invite you to rejoin us next January as we embark on a new year together.

Enjoy your read!

Adèle Martial, Scientific attaché
Cécile Camerlynck, Deputy Scientific attaché

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Table of contents



Second edition of the French-American Science Festival in Chicago

On Monday, October 29 and Tuesday, October 30, the Office for Science and Technology (Chicago section), in partnership with the Rick Morimoto Laboratory hosted the 2nd Annual French-American Science Festival in the Lurie Atrium of Northwestern University’s Downtown Campus. The festival was co-organized with the Delegation des Alliances françaises and also supported by the Institut Francais and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This unique event had the participation of over 40 renowned French and American institutions such as the Ecole Normale Superieure de Paris, College de France, Université de Lyon, Institute Polytechnique de Paris, the CERN, Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry and Argonne National Laboratory among others.

JPEGOver 450 students from schools across the Chicago area and the Midwest attended to observe “hand-on” booths on a wide variety of subjects such as chemistry, nuclear energy, water and waste management, sustainable energy, biology, nanotechnology, symbiosis, tactical illusion, digital fabrication, particle physics and imagery.

The festival also included a scientific conference with Prof. Paul Colonna from Collège de France and INRA on sustainable bio-energies in developed countries and a round table discussion on the economic challenges of renewable energy with keynote speaker Prof. Sophie Meritet of the Centre Geopolitique de l’Energie et des Matieres Premieres, hosted at the Alliance Francaise de Chicago. There was also two scientific shows presented by the famous French scientific journalist, Jamy Gourmaud.

This was followed by the showing of an international film project on water management from students in France, the US and India. The film expanded the discussion of the workshop on scientific mediation and outreach programs, where panelists included a representative of the National Science Foundation. The objective was to search for joint innovative international projects that can expand science education to youth around the world. Read more




Partner University Fund - 2013

The Embassy of France to the United States and the FACE Foundation are accepting application proposals for the 2013 Partner University Fund call for projects.
Project proposals must be submitted electronically on our application portal by January 7, 2013.
Funding decisions will be announced in March for the 2013-2014 academic year. Read more


ENP - Graduate Program

The ENP (Ecole des Neurosciences de Paris) is a research training network created in 2007 by the French Ministry of Research and Higher Education. It is made up of more than 100 high-profile Neuroscience research teams in the Paris region and covers all fields of Neuroscience including cognitive neuroscience. Since 2007, ENP launches each year its Graduate Program call for applications. This year, applications to the ENP Graduate Program will open on November 1st and will close on January 14th, 2013. Only online application will be considered ( For further information and application see:


Purdue Center for Global Food Security awards research grants on U.S. student projects in 18 countries - Oct 17th

A Purdue University research center leading efforts to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers to help solve world hunger is awarding $444,250 in grants to graduate students at 14 U.S. universities. The Purdue Center for Global Food Security announced 23 research grants for student projects in 18 countries as part of the U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security Program. The funding is through a five-year, $5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The grants for students at the 14 universities, including Purdue, range from $7,000 to $40,000 and are intended to provide support for overseas research projects leading to a master’s or doctoral degree, Gary Burniske, managing director of the Purdue Center for Global Food Security, said Wednesday (Oct. 17) in announcing the recipients. Read more

Science & Technology in the US

National News


USDA Scientists Collaborate with Global Researchers to Advance the Mapping of the Barley Genome - Oct 17th

In a major advance that will unlock the benefits of the mapping of the barley genome—one of the world’s most important cereal crops—work conducted and supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in collaboration with researchers around the world has resulted in the most advanced sequencing of the barley genome to date, as reported today in the journal Nature. The advance will give researchers the tools to produce higher yields, improve pest and disease resistance, and enhance nutritional value of barley. Past genomic research supported by USDA has provided similar benefits to crops such as tomato and corn, and helped improve cattle breeding and enhance the productivity of dairy cows. "USDA supports innovative genomics research that is really moving us forward to meeting the many challenges we face in food, fuel and agriculture production," said Catherine Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. "This important step toward full barley genome sequencing offers enormous potential for global food security. Using the tools of genetics and genomics, we are keeping farmers profitable and our food supply safe and abundant." Read more

USDA Funds 244 Agribusiness Projects- Oct 22nd

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the funding for 244 projects across the United States that are focused on helping agricultural producers and rural small businesses. The projects will help to lower energy consumption and costs using renewable technologies. The funding is part of USDA’s Rural Energy for American Program (REAP). “As part of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy, USDA has partnered with thousands of America’s farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to help them save energy and improve their bottom line,” said Vilsack. “This effort is helping to provide stable energy costs that create an environment for sustainable job growth in rural America.” Read more

USDA awards 14 grants supporting research and marketing of organic agriculture - Oct 22nd

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded $19 million to research and extension programs to help organic producers and processors grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. "America’s organic farmers rely on quality science to keep their operations profitable and successful," said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. "These grants will give our organic farmers the skills and tools they need to be competitive and continue producing abundant and high-quality crops." The grants disbursed today include more than $14 million in 2012 grants through the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). This program focuses on helping producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards to grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. OREI’s priority concerns include biological, physical and social sciences – with an emphasis on research and outreach that assist farmers and ranchers with whole farm planning. Read more

What Would Be the Effects of Nanomaterial Use in Agriculture? - Nov 2nd

The use of nanomaterials in agriculture could, on the one hand, reduce cost and effort, increase efficiency and lead to more environmentally sound applications. On the other hand, it might also have a negative effect on microorganisms in the soil. This is concluded by the authors of a review article written within the scope of the National Research Programme "Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials". Although no plant protection products or fertilisers containing nanomaterials are available on the market as yet, nanomaterials are becoming an increasingly important issue in agriculture, particularly as additives or agents in fertilisers or plant protection products: The number of scientific publications and patents on nanomaterials in this area has increased exponentially since the turn of the millennium, according to a review article recently published by researchers from the Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station and the Federal Office for Agriculture. With around 70 articles published until now, it is still possible for researchers to gain an overview of the topic. The USA and Germany are leading the field with regard to patents, but most of the scientific articles have been written in Asian countries. Read more

Midwest news


Warmer climates don’t necessarily mean more fertile soils, study says Oct 31st

Warmer climates won’t necessarily speed the return of nitrogen to soils as scientists once thought, according to a Purdue University study. Increased temperatures from climate change have been expected to speed decomposition of plant materials and the return of nitrogen to soils, making the soil more fertile for plants. But Jeff Dukes, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources at Purdue, found that the microbes responsible for returning nitrogen to soils react differently to a range of climate scenarios. "More nitrogen being available is not something we can count on in all ecosystems," said Dukes, whose findings were published in the journal Global Change Biology. Read more


Iowa State Students Gather Nutritional Data for United Nations - Oct 18th

Worldwide there’s a variety of animal breeds raised for food, but the nutritional differences of those meats has never been documented – until now. Students from Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recently published an article about information they added to a food composition database developed for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome. Students enrolled in the Dean’s Global Agriculture and Food Leadership Program took a spring semester plus one month this summer to analyze, evaluate and document scientific literature regarding breed and production of beef. The student team added beef nutritional information to the FAO/INFOODS Food Composition Database for Biodiversity. No meat data were available within the database until the Iowa State student team took on the scientifically rigorous job. The students collected and summarized information on meat nutrition and quality, adding more than 200 records to the database. The task required attention to detail. Read more


Researchers Double Down On Heat to Break Up Cellulose, Produce Fuels and Power - Oct 23rd

Nicholas Creager recently pointed to the nuts and bolts of one of Iowa State University’s latest biofuel machines. The 6-inch diameter, stainless steel pipe is the pressure vessel, which is essential for the system’s operation, said Creager, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering and biorenewable resources and technology. It’s a little over three feet long and about a foot across. It can contain pressures up to 700 pounds per square inch. Then Creager picked up a dark gray pipe that’s a few inches across, is wrapped in insulation and fits inside the pressure vessel. It’s the system’s reactor. It’s made of silicon carbide and can operate at temperatures exceeding 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Read more

Biofuel breakthrough: Quick cook method turns algae into oil - Oct 31st

It looks like Mother Nature was wasting her time with a multimillion-year process to produce crude oil. Michigan Engineering researchers can "pressure-cook" algae for as little as a minute and transform an unprecedented 65 percent of the green slime into biocrude. "We’re trying to mimic the process in nature that forms crude oil with marine organisms," said Phil Savage, an Arthur F. Thurnau professor and a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan. The findings will be presented Nov. 1 at the 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh. Savage’s ocean-going organism of choice is the green marine micro-alga of the genus Nannochloropsis. Read more

Biofuel conversion process cuts costly separating step - Nov 12th

Using a biomass-derived solvent, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemical and biological engineers have streamlined the process for converting lignocellulosic biomass into high-demand chemicals or energy-dense liquid transportation fuel. Their new method eliminates the need for costly pretreatment steps that separate hemicellulose and cellulose, two main components of plant biomass that react at different rates. Pretreatment and extraction or separation steps can account for up to 30% of the total capital cost of a biofuels production plant. James Dumesic, the Steenbock Professor and Michel Boudart Professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW–Madison, and members of his research group described the process in a paper published online in Energy & Environmental Science. The "magic potion" that enables the researchers to simultaneously process hemicellulose and cellulose, which have significantly different physical and chemical properties, is gamma-valerolactone, or GVL. Read more

Other states’ news


Fruits and Veggies for Now and in the Future - Oct 2nd

Fruits and vegetables are important parts of a balanced diet, and making sure consumers have an abundant supply of them is part of the Agricultural Research Service’s mandate. Genetic improvements in fruits and vegetables are essential to meet the ever-changing needs of growers, processors, and consumers. Scientists in ARS laboratories around the country strive to meet those needs.

  • Potatoes—a Kitchen Staple
  • Protecting Spuds From Their Enemies
  • A Pack of Peppers
  • Bountiful Berries
    Read more
Reducing Sorghum’s Major Limitations Cold Tolerance and Diseases - Oct 17th

In the world of cereal crops, sorghum is as versatile as they come. Extremely drought tolerant, it grows in marginal areas and produces so much biomass that some researchers are exploring whether it can be used as a biofuel. It is an important part of the human diet in India, Africa, and parts of Japan, and while it is used in the United States primarily in animal feed, it is a major U.S. export and is sold domestically to make gluten-free flour. But sorghum has its limitations. It is highly susceptible to diseases and is not cold tolerant. Agricultural Research Service scientists in College Station, Texas, are developing tools to help combat the diseases that can wipe out entire fields of sorghum. Colleagues in Lubbock, Texas, are hunting for genes that they can use to develop cold-tolerant lines and expand the range of what was originally a tropical plant. Read more

Beneficial Fungus Formulated Into Bioplastic “Bullets” - Oct 18th

Aflatoxins are highly toxic substancesproduced by several species of Aspergillus fungi. But not all Aspergillus produce aflatoxins. Some, in fact, are considered beneficial. One such strain, K49, is now being recruited to battle its harmful Aspergillus relatives, preventing them from contaminating host crops, like corn, with the carcinogen. In collaboration with Italy’s University of Bologna (UB) microbiologist Cesare Accinelli, ARS plant pathologist Hamed Abbas and ARS soil microbiologist Bob Zablotowicz (now retired) devised a new method of formulating K49 as a first-line defense against aflatoxin contamination of corn, which costs an estimated $200 million annually in U.S. losses alone. So potent is the aflatoxin that U.S. law prohibits the sale of corn or any grain destined for human consumption if it contains more than 20 parts per billion. Read more

Selective dairy breeding could help prevent lameness, boost productivity - Oct 24th

Dairies could increase their efficiency, reduce their carbon footprints and improve the health of their herds if they considered foot warts and other hoof ailments when they develop breeding plans, suggests a new study led by UC Davis researchers. “Most dairy breeding programs select for milk production but the results of this study indicate that the cow’s conformation, particularly in terms of hoof health, also should be considered,” said Anita Oberbauer, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Animal Science and lead author of the study. The study is published in the October issue of the Journal of Dairy Science. By reducing hoof-health problems through selective breeding, dairy producers could increase herd longevity, improve milk yield and reduce economic inputs and environmental impacts related to raising replacement heifers, the study concludes. Read more

Minimizing Mining Damage with Manure - Oct 26th

From 1850 to 1950, the Tri-State Mining District of southwestern Missouri, southeastern Kansas, and northeastern Oklahoma produced 50 percent of the zinc and 10 percent of the lead in the United States. The last active mine closed in 1970, but mining’s ecological legacy remains throughout the region—lead-contaminated acidic soils, toxic smelter sites, large quantities of mine tailings called “chat,” and thousands of acres of land with little or no vegetation. Paul White, a soil scientist in the ARS Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma, Louisiana, was part of a team that studied whether adding beef cattle manure compost to postmining sites would help jump-start revegetation. “Soil microbes recycle nutrients from soil organic matter, and this nutrient cycling is important for vegetation growth. But there is limited soil organic carbon at these sites,” White says. “So we added carbon to the soil via compost to see if that would get these systems going.” Read more

Spraying Insecticide? There’s an App for That! - Nov 8th

Applying pesticides is no simple task. With dozens of manufacturers producing dozens of different types of spray technology—each with its own nozzle type, flow rate, and pressure setting range—the equipment can get pretty complicated. Adjusting equipment to the right settings can involve factoring in wind speed, air temperature, flight speed, and humidity. Agricultural Research Service scientists in Texas have released two new applications, or “apps,” to make things easier. The apps, developed by Brad Fritz and Clint Hoffmann, who are with the Areawide Pest Management Research Unit’s Aerial Application Technology group in College Station, will ensure that aerial and ground-based crews that spray pesticides have the best guidance possible before they spray. Users key in specifics on the type of equipment and pesticide they are using. The app displays the droplet size that will result from that setup and allows users to tweak settings to generate the desired droplet size. Read more


California’s GE labeling proposition rejected - Nov 7th

According to the Associated Press, voters spurned a ballot measure that would have made California the first in the nation to affix labels on breakfast cereals, baked goods, and other processed foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. With 100% of precincts reporting, Proposition 37 failed 53.1% to 46.9%. Under Proposition 37, most processed foods would have had to bear the label “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering” on boxes, cans, and bottles by 2014. The words “genetically engineered” would be required to appear on the front package of a small variety of produce or on store shelves. Such products also would be prohibited from using the terms “natural” or “naturally made” in their advertising. Consumer activists and the organic food industry said shoppers crave information about what they’re eating and should be given all the information they need to decide for themselves whether to buy products containing genetically altered ingredients. Opponents fear labeling would amount to placing a skull-and-crossbones symbol on their products even though studies show bioengineered food to be safe. They also warn of higher grocery bills if the initiative passes. Read more


USDA awards Penn State $10M to develop biomass supply chains for liquid transportation and aviation biofuels in Northeast - Oct 16th

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded Pennsylvania State University a five-year research grant valued at roughly $10 million to develop biomass supply chains for the production of liquid transportation and aviation biofuels in the Northeast. The NEWBio Consortium will focus on the non-food biomass sources of willow, miscanthus and switchgrass, which can be grown on former strip mines and marginal floodplains. Through an integrated research, education and Extension approach, the consortium will address the entire biofuel production spectrum, including crop genetic development, harvesting, storage and processing techniques and sustainable production systems. The biomass research will develop sustainable production practices to improve yield by 25% and reduce costs by 20%. Read more

University donates used cooking oil to fuel local school buses with biodiesel - Oct 16th

Campus Dining Services has begun recycling cooking oil to donate to local Pitt County schools to use as biodiesel in buses. This recycling is being done through a program called Biodiesel 4 Schools, which began in the spring of 2010 in association with Green Circle, an environmental fundraising group. The university was already recycling its cooking oil to be used as biofuel, but this new program allows the biofuel to stay in Pitt County without any extra fees for distribution or conversion. Read more

A new path to renewable diesel from biomass - Nov 8th

A team of Berkeley researchers, supported by the Energy Biosciences Institute, have developed a new process to make renewable diesel from starch, sugars, or even cellulosic sugars. Or, rather, transformed an old process that was first developed in the First World War as a means to make cordite, for munitions. “What I am really excited about is that this is a fundamentally different way of taking feedstocks – sugar or starch – and making all sorts of renewable things, from fuels to commodity chemicals like plastics,” said Dean Toste, UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and co-author of a report on the new development that will appear in today’s issue of Nature. Co-authors include Harvey Blanch and Douglas Clark, UC Berkeley professors of chemical and biomolecular engineering – plus former post-doctoral fellow Pazhamalai Anbarasan, graduate student Zachary C. Baer, postdocs Sanil Sreekumar and Elad Gross and BP chemist Joseph B. Binder. Read more

$8.4 million for food grain and alternative fuel research - Nov 9th

With new grants totaling $8.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Agency for International Development and industry partners, UC Davis plant scientist Eduardo Blumwald is reaching out to feed and fuel the world. With his laboratory colleagues, Blumwald uses genetic engineering to improve the drought tolerance and efficiency of switchgrass, a native North American grass valued for its potential as a sustainable source of fuel, and to develop heat- and drought-tolerant varieties of pearl millet, a vitally important grain for India and Africa. Blumwald holds the Will W. Lester Chair in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded a five-year, $6.6 million grant to Blumwald and his collaborators at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support his research into switchgrass, which has the advantages of being a high-yielding and adaptable perennial plant. Working with Blumwald on the project are John Vogel, Christian Tobias, and Roger Thilmony, all at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif. Read more

Science & Technology in France

At the National level


“Agriculture: Producing in a Different Way”: a cooperative platform - Sept 21st

Stéphane Le Foll, French Minister for Agriculture, Food Industry and Forestry, launched a cooperative web platform called “Agriculture: Producing in a Different Way” on September 21, 2012. This approach aims to highlight the new and innovative agricultural models in France. Read more


Researchers seek to identify environmental risk factors for obesity - Oct 15th

A new €3.8m research project aims to pinpoint the environmental and social risk factors for obesity throughout the European Union, with a view to informing future policy. More than 50% of European adults are overweight or obese, with obesity rates exceeding 20% in many member states. However, obesity prevalence varies between and within countries. The SPOTLIGHT project (sustainable prevention of obesity through integrated strategies) is a new study funded by a research grant from the European Commission, which brings together 13 research centres in eight countries across the region. Read more

ANSES highlights the weaknesses of the study by Séralini et al., but recommends new research on the long-term effects of GMOs - Oct 22nd

ANSES was requested by the French Government to examine the paper by Séralini et al. published on 19 September 2012. The collective expert assessment carried out by the Agency concluded that the results of this research do not cast doubt on previous regulatory assessments of NK603 maize and Roundup. However, ANSES emphasises the small number of published studies dealing with the potential long-term effects of the consumption of GMOs in association with pesticides and recommends undertaking research into these issues. In addition, the Agency calls for national or European funding to enable large-scale studies and research for consolidating our knowledge of insufficiently documented health risks. Read more

Salt: intake reduced, but still not enough - Nov 9th

Consumed in excess, salt is a risk factor for disease, especially high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. In 2002, the Agency recommended lowering population intake by 20% through the gradual reduction in the salt content of certain foods. In partnership with the French National Consumers Institute (INC), monitoring of the salt content of a wide range of foods began in 2003. ANSES recently conducted an assessment of the impact of the ingredient changes observed since this monitoring plan was set up. It shows a reduction in salt content, proving the relevance of the voluntary commitment charter strategy implemented through the National Health and Nutrition Programme (PNNS) and National Food Plan (PNA). However, this reduction in salt content is still not sufficient to enable public health objectives to be attained. Therefore, ANSES recommends implementing additional initiatives, and if necessary regulatory ones, in order to increase the number of products targeted by this strategy and the level of reduction in salt content of processed foods. Read more

Institutions / Universities


A new future for an old crop: barley enters the genomics age - Oct 17th

Higher yields, improved pest and disease resistance and enhanced nutritional value are among potential benefits of an international scientific research effort that has resulted in an integrated physical, genetical and functional sequence assembly of the barley genome, as described in a paper published in the prestigious journal Nature. The new resource, produced by the International Barley Sequencing Consortium (IBSC), which includes the French Genomic Resource Center (INRA-CNRGV), will facilitate the development of new and better barley varieties able to cope with the demands of climate change. It should also help in the fight against cereal crop diseases, which cause millions in losses every year. Read more

Companies and Research Cluster

Get in touch with science

Many organizations give you the opportunity to learn and improve your mind about agriculture and food science. Please find below some of website about these:


Website to see

For the United States information

Federal agencies

JPEG The United States Department of Agriculture continues to release articles about the drought and the actions engaged to help the farmer through the U.S.

JPEG November is the Diabetes Awareness Month. The US Food and Drug Administration publies some articles about this topic.


JPEG You will find some nutrition information about the sodium, the quinoa or the vitamins.

News articles

JPEG News from the United States covering advancements in science and technology (French articles).

For France information

Research centers

JPEG The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety give you some information about the salt consumption in France and also about the veterinary drugs.

JPEG The French National Institute for Agricultural Research issues some articles on the genome and the diabete.

Information centers

JPEG News from France on advancements in science and technology (French articles).

JPEG The Ministry of Agriculture is committed to the fight against food waste. You will find several articles about this topic in this website. (French article)

JPEG You will find articles about the agriculture depending on the area and about the French Food.

European informations

JPEG This month, you have some articles about the GMO issues and the debriefs about the last conferences.

Coming events

12th Annual Iowa Organic Conference University of Iowa Memorial Union
125 North Madison Street
Iowa City, IA 52242 November 18-19, 2012
2012 AGMasters Conference iHotel and Conference Center Champaign, Illinois November 26-27, 2012
2012 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Hilton Americas-Houston Houston, Texas November 27-29, 2012
Labeling Requirements and Implications for Foods Marketed in the U.S. Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hote Arlington, Vrginia December 4-5, 2012
Food Policy Impact Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel Arlington, Vrginia December 6, 2012


French Office for Science and Technology at the Embassy of France in Washington, DC - website:
Consulate General of France in Chicago - website:


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Last modified on 16/11/2012

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