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Interview with Yaffa Grossman, August 12, 2014

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:00 - Early motivations to pursue ecology

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Partial Transcript: Okay, my name is Dennis Knight. I'm here to interview Yaffa Grossman.

Segment Synopsis: Grossman discusses her early interests in nature and being a Girl Scout. She talks about attending the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) as a math major and later transferring to Amherst College, where she took her first ecology course. She recalls becoming very interested in ecology and attending graduate school for biology at Amherst College and later pursuing her doctorate at the University of California, Davis.

Keywords: Lincoln Brower; Marge Holland; botany; water conservation program

00:03:54 - Working at the ESA public affairs office

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Partial Transcript: In 1987, Marge was on sabbatical in France.

Segment Synopsis: Grossman discusses her work at the Ecological Society of America's (ESA) public affairs office, recalling the plan she helped to develop for the ESA to explore the ecological ramifications of genetically engineered organisms. She talks about how the main motivation for this was that the National Academy of Science had published a report saying that there was nothing to worry about regarding genetically engineered organisms.

Keywords: ESA executive committee; Marge Holland; Steve Lindow; Strawberries; ice minus bacteria; newsletter

00:09:23 - Genetically engineered organisms (GEOs)

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Partial Transcript: So it was an interesting project to engage.

Segment Synopsis: Grossman discusses the peer review process for the ESA's genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) report. She talks about how she has kept up with the science of genetically engineered organisms over the years. She also discusses how the ESA won an award for the report on genetically engineered organisms from the Rose Hulman Institute in Indiana.

Keywords: Allison Snow; Beloit College; Davis; John Burris; Marge Holland; National Science Board; lobbying

00:20:02 - Involvement in the ESA

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Partial Transcript: Well, you have continued active in the ESA over the years since then.

Segment Synopsis: Grossman discusses her changing involvement in the ESA over the years, saying that she has been less involved in recent years. She recounts how she was asked to be on the Public Affairs Committee on her first day of teaching at Beloit College.

Keywords: Bloomington, Indiana; biosphere; earth stewardship program; sustainability fellows

00:24:16 - Reception of ESA's position paper on GEOs

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Partial Transcript: So, the genetically engineered organisms report was somewhat controversial in whether or not it could be presented as representing the thinking of the ESA at large.

Segment Synopsis: Grossman discusses the controversiality of the ESA's report on genetically engineered organisms, saying that it went through an extensive peer review process but was still never presented as the ESA's view on the subject. Grossman also talks about how there was a lack of legislation regarding genetically engineered organisms and that Al Gore's staff was working on drafting more legislation.

Keywords: Hal Mooney; Industrial Biotechnology Association; biodiversity

00:28:16 - Congressional support of ESA / Relationship with the press

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Partial Transcript: So you found that in Washington congressional staffers were receptive to input from ESA?

Segment Synopsis: Grossman discusses working with Congress and says that they were very receptive to listen to the input of the ESA. She also talks about how the ESA did not have a press office at the time, so they did not handle dealing with journalists as well as they could have.

Keywords: Elliott Norse; Marge Holland; ecological information network; email; public affairs office; senate

00:34:42 - Other debates within the ESA

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Partial Transcript: Alright, well any other debates that the public affairs office faced?

Segment Synopsis: Grossman talks about the ESA's attempts at balancing its scientific research with its public policy interaction. She also discusses how the ESA, in wanting to maintain its non-profit status, had to stay on the side of education rather than go in the direction of lobbying.

Keywords: Barbra Mikulski; ecology; environmentalism