Newsletter No. 338

No. 338, 19.5.2009 S amuel S . M . S un 辛世文 1 农业生物技术国家重点实验室(香港中文大学)成 立后,有什么大计? What are the plans for the State Key Laboratory of Agrobiotechnology (CUHK)? 我们希望透过这平台,推行更配合中国内地需要的研究。 中文大学与深圳华大基因研究院合作,成立了「中 • 华 • 基 因组研究中心」,我们通过这中心,开展世界首创的「大豆 回家」项目。大豆五千年前源于中国,外传后经西方国家 多番改良、育种,好些在受控制的种植环境下不需要的如 抗旱、耐寒等基因,在育种过程中已遭剔除。现在我们尝 试从野生大豆的基因结构中,找回失落的基因,还原大豆 原有特性,希望令中国重夺生产优质大豆的优势。 此外,由比尔及梅琳达盖茨基金会资助的黄金水稻研究会 继续发展,致力提高水稻营养,加入蛋白质、维他命E、锌 及铁等,期望第一批产品在2010年面世。 We hope the laboratory can serve as a platform for research that meets the needs of the Chinese community. In collaboration with Beijing Genomics Institute, Shenzhen (BGI), CUHK established the CUHK–BGI Genome Research Centre and launched the world’s first Soyabean Homecoming Project. Originating in China 5,000 years ago, the soyabean was exported to the West. After a long history of breeding and domestication, some genes which were unnecessary under a controlled growing environment such as those for cold-tolerance and drought-resistance were sifted out. However, the lost genes can still be found in wild species. The project is aimed at restoring the characteristics of soyabean by reinstating the selected original genes. The ultimate goal is to make China regain the leading role of soyabean production in the world. The Golden Rice Project supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also on track. This project aims at enhancing the nutritive value of rice by introducing protein, vitamin E, zinc and iron into the new species. The first batch is expected to be launched in 2010. 2 环境、气候、粮产三者息息相关,粮产短缺的警号 已在全球响起,作为科学家或普通人,我们当前可 以做些什么? Environment, climate and crop yield are interrelated. What should a scientist or anyone do to alleviate food shortage? 无论是否科学家,同样要齐心保护地球的天然资源以及生 物多样性,避免污染,小如减少用胶袋、大至减少砍伐热 带雨林,都应留意。富裕国家可投放资源,研究改善食物 生产,贫国在这方面举步维艰,我希望强国可将技术传给 落后国家,让他们有能力自行生产足够粮食;这是授人以 鱼,不如授人以渔的道理。 Everyone has the responsibility to protect our natural resources and the biodiversity of nature. We can refrain from using too much plastic bags as well as felling tropical rainforests. Wealthy nations are capable of investing more to improve the crop yield. I hope they can help poor nations by passing on advanced technological knowledge to them. As the saying goes, ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for lifetime’. 3 有人认为基因改造食物是粮荒的救星,亦有人甚为 保留,怎样可以加深市民的认识? Some say genetically modified food is the solution to food shortage, while others have reservations. How can the public learn more about it? 基因改造食物是崭新事物,公众的恐惧源于未了解。过往 以配种方式改进农作物,现时则用转换基因的方法,其实 都是透过基因调动的原理,增加产量。由于传统方法的增 产量已到上限,而人口仍不断增加,故要开发新技术。公 众教育很重要,过往我常为公众及学生开办讲座,现时中 学课程已涵盖这课题。基因食物在1996年开始投入美国 市场,迄今并没任何报告谓安全性有问题。假以时日,相 信大家会逐渐接受。 Genetically modified food is a brand new product. The public has reservations because they know nothing about it. Fear comes from ignorance. In fact, both traditional and biotechnological methods increase crop yield by altering genes, but the former works by breeding and the latter by gene transference. However the traditional method has reached its maximum capacity while the population continues to grow. So it is imperative that a new technology be developed to increase the yield. Education is essential for removing doubts, so I always give talks to the public and to students. The secondary school curriculum covers this topic too. Genetically modified food was launched in the US market in 1996. There is no report of a single safety problem to date. I firmly believe that time will reveal all. 4 科研的路多是孤寂的,你同意吗? Do you agree that the path of a scientist is lonely? 我很认同,亦有切身经验。科研是长期的工作,涉及高新 科技,即使家人也未必理解,所以倍感孤独。犹记得在七 十年代到美国威斯康星大学任博士后研究员,专研那时 被视为不可能的植物基因复制,没有专用仪器,唯有借用 遗传学系的器材,在深宵或周末周日才能使用,很有寄人 篱下的感觉。当地不时下雪,我独在地窖的实验室工作十 六七小时,天天如是,深宵人静,月冷星凄,极目窗外,尽 是白蒙蒙的雪地,夜半独自走路回家时,寒风萧索,双腿 冷得不断颤抖,那份寂寥格外强烈。 科研的路并不好走,必须以兴趣不断燃点热诚,想到研究 是为人类的整体福祉,就不会计较失败及挫折。基于这信 念,我日以继夜反覆试验,当成功复制植物基因时,开心 得整个人跳起来,那种感觉非笔墨可形容。 I agree completely. I experienced it first hand. Conducting scientific research requires long-term devotion. You have to bury yourself in research and no one, not even your family, understands what you are doing. In the ’70s, I worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Wisconsin-Madison and investigated the feasibility of plant cloning, which was regarded as an impossible task. As this was a brand new research area, we didn’t have advanced equipment so I had to do research in the laboratory of other departments. In other words, I could only go there when their staff was off or on the weekends. There’s heavy snow in Wisconsin. I always worked for 16 to 17 hours in the basement laboratory. When I looked out of the window at midnight, I found nothing, only snow fields, scattered stars and the moon. Accompanying me home every night was the strong wind which made me tremble. I felt deeply lonely. The path of a scientist is not easy. A scientist’s passion should be fuelled by his interest. When I remind myself that my goal is the well-being of mankind, I can overcome any failure and hurdles. I remember jumping for joy whenever I made a breakthrough. It’s a happiness beyond words. 5 善衡书院希望给同学一个「家」的培育环境,如何 为学生建立这个「家」? The ultimate vision of S.H. Ho College is to provide a ‘home’ for students. How would you build this ‘home’? 一个家不只是一个住处,还要有关怀、归属感和安全感。 我希望书院同事真诚关怀学生,处处为他们的学习、生活 及前途着想,与学生慢慢建立如家人般的互信互爱关系, 让学生感到书院是他们的第二个家,而全宿共膳正提供这 样的相处机会。 A home is not only a house, but also a place that’s filled with love, a sense of belonging and safety. I hope the College staff will care about the students and create a homely learning environment that will make them feel at home. Being a fully residential college with communal dining basis will help to achieve this goal. 辛世文教授1996年回归母校出任中大生物学讲座教授及系主任,现为农业生物技术 国家重点实验室(香港中文大学)主任,并于2006年起任善衡书院候任院长。 Prof. Samuel S.M. Sun, Professor of Biology, returned to CUHK, his alma mater, to chair its Biology Department in 1996. He is also the director of the State Key Laboratory of Agrobiotechnology (CUHK). In 2006, he was appointed the Master-Designate of S.H. Ho College.

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