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.”


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!

Picking corn

After weeks of waiting, our sweet corn is finally ready to enjoy…and enjoy it we have!

My littlest helper, George.

EJ is a big fan of sweet corn, too!

After my last post on sweet corn, I received some interesting suggestions as to what we could do with our farm…namely, someone thought it would be best if our farm were to burn down. That wasn’t very nice, now was it?

A good friend of mine found this video clip, and I think it does an amazing job of explaining the exact science behind GMO’s, as opposed to random modifications that are made in plant breeding all the time. (And trust me, I would never consider the Huffington Post as a credible news source, ever…but this one surprised me!)

Scientist’s take on GMO

Every time I think about our sweet corn, this is the image in my head, not a Mr. Yuck sticker:

This little one is excited for some sweet corn…and I’m excited about the possibilities!

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!

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.

Protecting their future

I never used to be a political person…well, at least not much. I had general ideas about where I thought our country stood, and felt that there were so many better-educated, passionate folks that could speak for me better than I could.

I was wrong.

I’m learning rather quickly that if I don’t speak up for what my family needs, then no one else will. And I will do everything I can to make sure that my children’s future is not jeopardized by an organization that attacks our livelihood, without taking the time to understand it.

Right now, EJ plays in the dirt...but I hope that someday he'll be able to farm with his dad. I'm doing my part to guarantee that. Will you?


What am I talking about? There is a group of individuals that have started a petition drive to collect signatures in support of a constitutional amendment that will safeguard farming and ranching in North Dakota. This amendment will guarantee that groups such as PETA and HSUS will not be able to manipulate the ballot initiative system in North Dakota and pass laws that will jeopardize our economy, our way of life and the future of our state.

The amendment simply states, “The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.

It’s straight, to-the-point and flexible enough to stand the test of time.

When asked about what this amendment would do, perhaps it would be easier to tell you what it isn’t…this isn’t about size of farm, types of farming, or allowing animal abuses to take place. It won’t supersede federal laws, criminal complaints or compromise zoning-type issues. It has nothing to do with farming systems, and everything to do with farming practices.

But North Dakota is an agricultural state. We would never do anything to harm our biggest industry. Right?

Did you know that ballot initiatives are already planned for our state by HSUS? We’re not talking about a far-distant, hard-to-imagine future. We’re talking about here and now.

Do you have questions? Ask and I’ll answer them or check out this link and see if your questions have already been answered. If I can’t answer, I have a whole slug of people who can (and I’m not afraid to use them!). Do you want to know how to find a petition to sign? Email me at wagntales@gmail.com and I’ll connect you to someone near you that has a petition. (You need to have been a North Dakota resident for 30 days, at least 18 years old and have a residential address…oh, and a US citizen.)

Instead of playing catch up, it’s time to take a stand and support those that make North Dakota the great state that it is.

Thank you to North Dakota Farm Bureau, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and all other organizations in the state of North Dakota that support this effort. My boys thank you, too.

Progression of farm work

Well, Boss Man hasn’t been very happy lately. We have received enough rain to delay planting yet again. Every shower we get, the chance of being able to get into the fields prior to deadline is getting smaller and smaller, which means changing the game plan.

These were a few of the shots that I took while he was able to plant with his “new” corn planter. We spent many, many hours working on this (yep, even me!) and we just wish we could use it a bit more! 🙂

Enjoy your beautiful weekend!

It takes equipment of ALL sizes to farm!


Corn is being planted...finally.


Thanks to GPS, the marker arms aren't needed. The tractor uses satellite signal to drive a straight line.


Reflecting (Ag Book of the Day 10)

I’ve been reading more and more situations lately, where churches and others are making broad statements regarding farming, and the decisions that farmers should make.

I have a real hard time with that. I do not know of one farmer that would ever make a decision, based solely on financial gain, without thinking to the future or what will happen to their land if they abuse or misuse it. Yet, those are the implications that are made everyday by some that are not actually physically involved in production agriculture. Now, I’m not so naive as to think that those types of farmers/ranchers don’t exist, but we can’t cast down all of agriculture for them, can we?

Well, I don’t want to delve too deeply into it today, because it’s Friday, and it’s snowing, and I’m already in a bad mood. But I want to bring your attention to a blog I wrote about it a little while back…and I still stand behind it today. What if these tools have been given to us to use? What if technology isn’t an “accident” at all? Hmmm…

Anyway…on to Ag Book of the Day 10:

Today, I went with an old stand-by…not because I don’t have any others to choose from, but because I have it on my Kindle. How’s that for combining traditional ag-themed children’s books and modern technology??? Without further ado, welcome to

“Old McDonald Had a Farm” and it’s now available wirelessly! 🙂
not only does it have great illustrations (if you have the original version, the illustrations are definitely funnier, and not so politically correct!), but it also teaches young children about the sounds of the farm, and how busy it can be! And who can forget one of the greatest nursery rhymes of all time???
I just had to throw this one in the mix, since it is on my Kindle. Next week I’ll be back to more obscure and lesser-known books, but for now…ENJOY!

New addition to the family

Before you start thinking that my husband and I have lost our marbles, our new addition is not of the human variety. In fact, it’s not of the living variety.

Thanks to the wonder of modern marvels and the amazing world of online auctions, we are the proud owners of a new combine. And by new, I mean antique, but we’ve never owned it before, so it’s new to us!

One of the ways that we keep costs down on our farm, or so my husband tells me, is that our equipment is pre-loved…or pre-swore at, however you want to look at it. This new beauty is probably a late-70’s, early-80’s Massey Ferguson model…and I’m pretty sure it’s an 860, but don’t quote me on that.

It’ll look something like this:

They're oldies, but goodies.

Now, we have newer heads for soybeans, but the same old corn heads for corn harvest. So, we get to mix old and new alike. The nice thing about sticking with these older models is that Boss Man is able to make all the repairs himself. In fact, I’m pretty sure he could take one apart and put it back together in the dark. Actually, he may have had to do that last fall, come to think of it! LOL! Just kidding, kinda…

I tease him about having to have a 6-pack of combines, just so that two are running, but it’s not so funny any more. The problem with having a vintage fleet, is that parts are getting harder and harder to come by…unless you buy a whole combine as a donor. Which is basically what we do. The plus side: the combines don’t cost much…as in we could buy them by the dozen, and not get close to touching what a new one would cost.

So, as long as there are old ones in the area that can be bought at auction, we’ll be sticking with what we know…and what Boss Man can fix.

They haven’t left a crop in the field yet!

A Thankful Heart

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and I have so much to be thankful for, that I should have started last week! But I’ll get around to all the thanking I need to do, it’ll just take some time.

First off, I’m so very, very thankful for my boys, my husband and the rest of our family. Even when insanity is at its highest, there isn’t a moment that I don’t realize just how lucky I am. Last week one evening, Big Bro came home from school and as we were working on his homework he said to me, “You know Mom, I’m so glad that I have you. I’m a pretty lucky kid.” After wiping away the “dust” in my eyes, I told him that I was the lucky one. And I am.

Second, I’m thankful to be living in a country so great that we have the freedom to choose so many aspects of our lives. We can choose who we want to be, what we want to do, where we want to go and how we get there. (Even if it means the discomfort of an up-close-and-personal pat down!) These choices are ever-present and sometimes overwhelming, but I’m thankful for them none-the-less.

I’m thankful for my fellow farmers and fellow ag-related friends. The amount of time and dedication that goes into agriculture-related fields is amazing, and it truly becomes not just a job, but a way of life. To the point that trying to imagine your life outside agriculture is on level with trying to figure out which of your children is your favorite, it’s just not possible.

I’m thankful for the food that is produced by ALL of agriculture. Organic, no-till, conventional, cage-free, free-range, traditional, grass-fed, corn-fed, grain-fed, whatever the buzz word of the day is, whatever your production methods may be, the world needs it all. As long as people are going to bed hungry at night, as long as children wonder where there next meals come from, whatever it takes, we need to keep producing the safest, most cost-effective food source possible.

And I’d be really thankful if I had a tongue long-enough to lick the inside of my nose! (Just kidding, of course)

Don't you wish you could lick the inside of your nose with your tongue?

Who gets to decide?

I was trying to catch up on some reading this weekend. I read through old papers that have been stacking up, some farm magazines (a few Us Weekly’s, I’ll admit!) and something started bothering me.

I was reading through old Letters to the Editor, editorial pieces and other information regarding the split between technology-reliant and nostalgia-driven agriculture. I kept reading about supposed scientific studies regarding the dangers of certain technology, the caution of genetically enhanced foods, etc., etc. when a thought hit me…who gets to decide who goes hungry?

What I mean is that as the number of farmers dwindles, and the number of people in our world rises, something has to give. (According to http://www.farmersfeedus.org/fun-farm-facts/ the avg. farmer feeds 155 people, as opposed to just 25 in 1960) As fewer acres are available for actual agriculture production, the production of your daily feed, fuel and fiber, without the use of technological advances, how will the world be fed? Clothed?

For those that use the argument that we use technology at the risk of “playing God” and committing some sort of sin, I think back to the parable about the drowning man. Every time someone offered to help him, the man replied the same, “No, God will save me.” When his energy finally gave and he drowned, the man asked God why it was that he did not save him. God basically replied that all the help he needed was sent, but the man ignored it. Perhaps we’re doing the same thing?

We sit and talk of the evils of advancement and the down-fall of modern agriculture, yet the hands that came across such discoveries were created the same as those that built the ark, brought children into the world, created your evening meal. Perhaps these hands have been guided to find these advances that will help an ever-decreasing percentage of the population to feed an ever-increasing total population?

Isn’t God’s endless allowance of miracles enough to give us reason to believe that such a thing could happen?

I fear that some day, as we sit at the feet of our Father and recount the days that we were on this Earth, that perhaps He too will say, “I sent you the answers to ease the hunger of the world, and yet you chose to ignore them.”

The Father that I know and praise for each gift that has been brought to my life would bless us with the tools that it would take to ensure that each of His children would have enough food to eat, clothing to keep warm and shelter to take comfort in. His gifts and grace are immeasurable in that way.

He’s the same Creator that gives the gift of life. Who creates a being in His image, and then allows for growth and prosperity where “modern” medicine proclaims that none are possible. I know, I see it each and every day in the eyes of my child.

So, yes, I believe that we CAN feed the world. And each gift we are given plays a part in it, no matter how big, or small.