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Clif Bar Family Foundation Announces Grant for Organic Plant Breeding

Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshotWords by Akhila Vijayaraghavan
Leadership & Transparency

The Clif Bar Company has always integrated CSR into its business model. The company only consists of 250 people, but it operates on a much larger scale in terms of CSR. Many of their ingredients are organically grown and their products do not contain high fructose corn syrup, additives, or hydrogenated oils. To take their food philosophy one step further, the Clif Bar Family Foundation recently announced a fellowship for plant breeding.

This is one of the first fellowships in organic plant breeding ever granted in the US. It is funded through the company's organic seed initiative known as Seed Matters. The foundation is issuing $375,000 in grants to fund three Ph.D fellowship students for five years in organic plant breeding at two public land grant universities.

Seed Matters works towards crop diversity as well as improving education and research in the agricultural sector. Seed Matters is a coalition of organizations and companies that advocate for the improvement and protection of organic seeds to ensure productive crops for the health of people and the planet.

The foundation selected land grant universities because they have a commitment towards rural communities and this ties in with their goals. These fellowships will provide organic farmers new varieties of seed as well as support organic research, education, and entrepreneurship.

According to Matthew Dillon, cultivator of Seed Matters: “Organic seed systems are the underlying foundation for healthy resilient farming and food systems. Seed is a farmer’s first line of defense against pests and global climate disruption, and has a huge impact on the nutrition and overall quality of the food we eat.”
Clif Bar Family Foundation works to support the food system by working with small organizations. They involve themselves in projects that strengthen the food system and communities, enhance public health and safeguard the environment and natural resources. The first recipient of this fellowship is from Washington State University, Mount Vernon Campus. The other two are from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington State University, Pullman.

Professors who are managing the fellowships include Dr. Stephen Jones at Washington State University, who works with wheat farmers, millers, and bakers to restore local grain economies; Dr. Kevin Murphy, also at WSU, who is breeding cover crops and heritage grain such as quinoa and spelt; and Dr. William Tracy at University of Wisconsin-Madison, whose sweet corn breeding is improving the quality of genetics available to organic farmers in cooler northern climates.

Earthbound Farm Organic, Organically Grown Company, Organic Valley, Vitalis Seed and Whole Foods Market have joined Seed Matters as financial collaborators to help increase awareness about organic seed and fund future fellowships and research around the country. With such programs targeted at organic research so few and far between, the company has ensured that more people can benefit from them. This program also takes into consideration their existing CSR policies and is a natural extension of their commitment towards sustainable food and agriculture.

Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshotAkhila Vijayaraghavan

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

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