Embracing the science behind cropping technology

As I mentioned previously, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to St. Louis last week to meet a few people that I admire greatly. Today, I’m going to tell you about Mark Lynas, a former anti-GMO activist, and the information that he shared at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. (Check out the whole presentation here!)

I was lucky enough to be in the audience to hear Mark Lynas give a presentation in St. Louis last week. The opportunity was an amazing one indeed!

I was lucky enough to be in the audience to hear Mark Lynas give a presentation in St. Louis last week. The opportunity was an amazing one indeed!

Mr. Lynas started out with a humble statement that it was hard for him to believe that an apology could make someone skyrocket to fame. Yet, he sincerely was sorry for the destruction and set-backs he may have caused by standing in the way of authentic scientific research by destroying biotech-research sites.

He wasn’t proud of what he had done…but what troubled him the most was the fact that he was so willing to buy into what the other activist groups were selling. It was concerning to realize that he would ignore the science behind biotechnology.

Science. The facts are there, but how long will it take until we believe them?

Science. The facts are there, but how long will it take until we believe them?

Lynas grew up determined to see a more equal world. Poverty is a terrible thing to witness, an even more terrible thing to stare in the face. Trust me, once you’ve lived with hunger…true hunger…you’ll never forget that feeling. Ever. And I do have to agree with him that we have seen great progress in our time in the reduction of poverty across the globe. Yet, I do believe we can all agree that we have a lot more work to do.

As Lynas said during his presentation, “I knew how everyone else should live their lives.”

Isn’t that the truth? Isn’t it so much easier to determine what everyone else should be doing? And how difficult is it to admit that our preconceived notions may be incorrect? That what we’ve determined to be our “truth,” may be anything but?

Lynas now works mainly behind the scenes, to help in the battle for food security. He knows that scientists need to start standing up and speaking for themselves. We cannot continue to dismiss science or destroy tests before the research is completed.

Does that mean that we should jump into biotechnology and genetically modified crops without hesitation or questions? Definitely not. Caution is always prudent, and surely mistakes will be made along the way, but we cannot keep looking back, we need to move forward to provide for our growing population.

Using technology can help ease hunger around the world.

Using technology can help ease hunger around the world.

“Being anti-science is being anti-humanitarianism.”

 

So where does this leave us? Do people have the right to know what’s in their food?

Of course. Questions will always be present, and people who make purchases have the right to determine what they want to buy. But as Lynas remarked, “On the other hand, we can’t stamp a skull and crossbones on every label.” And those at the market shelves should be well-aware that places such as Whole Foods are making a great living by thriving on the fear surrounding GMO foods. In fact, it’s one of the most successful marketing ploys today.

Overall, the few hours that I was able to meet Mark Lynas and take in his presentation will go down as one of the most memorable mornings of my life (right after the birth’s of my four boys!).

How do I sum up my whole experience? Well, I believe that I can quote Lynas directly on this one:

“You don’t stop learning when you leave school.”

Amen.

I know that not all of my readers agree with me on the biotechnology issue, and that’s quite all right by me. But please, if you choose to leave a comment, keep it positive and offer solutions, not just blame the establishment for your lot in life and threaten my farm or family. In the near future, I will tackle the religious side to the biotechnology argument. And it may or may not surprise you! Thanks for reading, and come back soon!

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Thankful Thursday – Technology

Technology. Some treat it as the downfall of our civilization, some treat it as the answer to everything. Me? I see it for what it is…a gift that can be used in many wonderful ways.

We recently planted a plot of sweet corn. What does that have to do with technology? Well, this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill Grandpa’s sweet corn. This is Bt sweet corn developed by Monsanto.

Our sweet corn seed bag from Monsanto…and I can’t wait to harvest this crop!

Now, I say “developed” because the seed itself is just a simple corn seed, it’s the traits of the corn that makes it special. This corn is more resistant to bugs, which makes it less likely that we’ll need to use pesticides on it. The corn is also hardy to herbicides, meaning that we can use the same chemical that millions of homes use everyday when needed to kill the weeds in the field, limiting the competition to the plant and improving the corn yields. That means more corn with less cost, less trips up and down the field, and less soil disturbance. The fewer times we have to disturb the soil, the better our soil health is, and the less we lose to erosion. A win-win.

This sweet corn is a great new product, but the technology is nothing new. Modifying traits in seeds has been going on for decades. Need examples? How about burpless cucumbers? (Burpless cucumbers are seedless…but without seeds, how are there more?) Oils made from seeds that are healthier? Seedless grapes, navel oranges…the list could go on. Biotechnology is a mainstay of food production throughout the world. With it, we can develop plants that can grow in less favorable conditions, produce better tasting crops and can be developed for certain health-care concerns. And that’s where my hope comes in…

It’s not just the sweet corn that has me thankful today. It’s the possibilities that this corn presents.

Our son, George, has a metabolic disorder that limits his ability to break down proteins. To sum it up in a very short statement, he can’t have meat, dairy, pastas, etc. His diet is limited to 12-13 grams of protein per day. The rest of his essential amino acids comes from here:

This is George’s formula…it stinks to high heaven and I have to hide it in different foods and stuff, but it’s what he needs. And that’s all that matters.

Yes, George is still on formula. And he’ll be on this special formula for the rest of his life. I’m thankful for this can, because without it, I’m not sure what we would have done, or what would have happened. But I don’t need to worry about that.

So what does this can of formula and a cob of corn have in common?

Imagine: if we can make a cob of corn that is resistant to bugs and herbicides, maybe we could eventually make a version of meat that has limited protein in it. Maybe we could make a dairy product that George could drink (and I’m not talking coconut beverage or soy substitute). Maybe we could make a pizza, complete with cheese and toppings, that would be easy and tasty for him to enjoy.

No, this cob of corn is not just a simple treat for my family to enjoy in a few months. It’s not just a soil-saving, resource-saving, farm-friendly crop…it’s a sign of what we can do when we take the time to investigate and do some research.

George, enjoying some yummy sweet corn!

I know what research did for us in the past. I see him every morning, waking up with an amazing smile and a great zest for life. It’s where the research leads us in the future that has me excited…and I hope, for George’s sake, that nothing stands in the way.

I am thankful that Monsanto provided us with the sweet corn seed, but please remember that the thoughts, ideas and opinions are my own…as well as those cute photos of my boys. Thank you!

WW – Some Sweet Tasters

First week of summer break is almost gone…we’ve been busy! I’ll catch up more later, but take a look at my boys enjoying a taste-test of sweet corn shipped to us from down south. I’d like to thank Monsanto for the chance to have an early bite of this delicacy…and can’t wait for our own to be ready!

The long-awaited cooler! Smelled so good!

Boiled up and ready to go!

This little boy was enjoying his first on-the-cob experience with sweet corn fully!

EJ gave the corn two thumbs up! (And was looking for more!)

Even Big Bro was excited about the sweet corn!

Our corn isn’t knee-high yet, but we’re up out of the ground…and that’s a great start!

The taste of sweet corn and the seed we planted was provided to our farm through Monsanto, but the thoughts, ideas and photos are my own.

Some Sweet Sweet Corn

My family is a big fan of sweet corn. Big fan. The only issue has been the amount of time and work that it takes (which I will admit, has mostly fallen on the shoulders of my father-in-law).

Imagine my excitement when a late-night Facebook conversation turned into an offer to test an acre of sweet corn? And not just any sweet corn…but sweet corn that could be planted with our field corn, without having to worry about killing it? I was beside myself with joy!

Now, if you haven’t put two and two together yet, this isn’t your regular sweet corn. It’s Round Up Ready sweet corn that’s been developed by Monsanto. (Wow, I was able to say Monsanto without thunder booming, clouds rolling and some menacing creature showing up.)

Now, that last comment was just me being funny. I have no problem with Monsanto, or any other seed development company. And no, I’m not on the payroll. I’m just simply a mother of four working on new ways to feed my children. Monsanto is just one of the companies that we purchase seed from, and they have no say in what we plant, where we plant it, or other management-type decisions that Boss Man makes.

So what about biotechnology? Aren’t I afraid of the unknowns? The simple answer is…well, simply no. Advancements are how we were able to increase food production, while we decrease our carbon footprint, lower soil erosion and improve our environment overall.

Every where I look, I see where technology (especially biotechnology) has made improvements in our world. Need some examples? How about burpless cucumbers? Seedless cottonwoods? Tomatoes that don’t soften after harvest?

I have no problem with any of these things.

So, in this instance, the sweet corn that we planted has a trait built in, that will help it stand up to insects, and makes it possible for the plant to survive if treated with herbicides (those are chemicals that we sometimes use to eliminate weeds in our fields). Now, before you get ahead of me, let me tell you that we have no desire to spray our corn with herbicides, unless we have to…and sometimes that happens.

Our fields were treated right before planting, so the weeds out there presently should die soon. We won’t have to reapply any herbicide until later in the year, and only if we have a weed issue. (Trust me, we don’t apply chemicals unless we have to…and that’s after a discussion with our crop consultant AND checking out each field ourselves.)

So, here we are, sweet corn in the ground, waiting for some rain and excited to see where the year takes us!

This is the sweet corn we planted!

Getting ready, making sure equal amounts of seed are in each.

Going in the ground!

Look at those rows! Love it! See the residue left from last year’s crop? And the weeds that are there should be dying in the next day or so.

I’d like to thank Monsanto for providing us the opportunity to test out a new product (Obsession II). Although the sweet corn seed was provided to us, the thoughts and photos are my own.