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One of the great strengths of the American food industry is the strong partnerships between universities and grower groups. That’s especially evident in Washington State, where Washington State University has a huge and positive presence in the tree fruit and wine grape communities.

In California, a longtime partnership is showing a strain as the California Strawberry Commission has sued the University of California, alleging the university was endorsing the privatization of an important part of the state’s agricultural heritage.

UC denies the allegations. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the suit claims the university is not properly safeguarding the germplasm, a living museum of 1,600 strawberry types developed from decades of research and cultivation.

California produces 90 percent of the nation’s strawberries, a crop worth $2.3 billion a year.

The dispute with the state Strawberry Commission began when a prominent university researchers decided to leave the university and start a private company for strawberry crop development.

Here’s a link to the Los Angeles Times article.