Beverly Hills billionaires give UC Davis $50 million to build agricultural research hub
By DAVID G. JUAN Published: April 11, 2012 8:28 AM
On a recent afternoon, the world’s richest people gathered at the Fairmont San Jose to talk agriculture.
Billionaires Jeffrey Zaslow, founder of the New York-based private equity firm Zaslow Capital and the $6.7 billion Sun-Times Media co-founded by his partner, David Sacks, and the University of California’s $7.9 billion Board of regents’ president, Mark Yudof, had come by way of UC Davis, where they had spent more than two hours talking about agriculture and the environment — the subjects they said have shaped and informed their lives.
As they worked, they ate sandwiches at the back table, sipped beer, chatted with each other and chatted with others nearby on other topics.
They had all come for the university’s annual meeting with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. That’s a yearly affair where university staff and regulators talk about a variety of topics, including environmental regulations.
The topic of farm biotechnology comes up.
As they talked, a small group of farmers walked by and took a few pictures with Zaslow, Sacks and Yudof. Later, at the end of the evening, the leaders of the $21 billion agribusiness group Farm Credit Bank of California joined them for a photo op — each of them waving their arms through their shirts to show their shirts had three stripes, and each wearing a pin with their phone number on it, in the shape of a red circle. On their pin were the words, “We don’t buy and we don’t sell,” in large white type.
Over the last generation, we have seen the rise of new farming methods, like the use of genetically modified seeds and the increase in yields, but we also have seen the decline in crop diversity, as farmers use a bigger percentage of the same crop variety, like corn, rather than a wider variety, like peanuts, for example, because the price of farm products is