Where can I find solid information resources on biotechnology, genetically modified organisms, and the seemingly endless list of science issues that arise in discussions centered around food today?
This is a big question I receive when folks are involved in discussions about hot topics related to our food supply. Folks against GMOs have a seemingly endless supply of news links and articles damning biotechnology and threatening an endless list of harm to our bodies if we consume anything but naturally selected foods. To make this even more frustrating, many of these studies supporting the anti-GMO argument have been proved as “bad science” by the academic and research worlds, which makes the conversation even more frustrating.
Where can we find solid, academic, unbiased peer-reviewed science centered around the biotechnology debate? It’s difficult in a society that is increasingly illiterate when it comes to science and when emotion outsells logic by a long-shot, but there are resources available.
Search engines for scientific literature
My first and most accessible recommendation would be Google Scholar. It’s just like Google, but directs your search to research literature. There are also online databases like PubMed which search multitudes of research journals. If you run into a road block with paid-access journals, check with your local library or University. Those places usually have subscriptions to information sources like these. However not all journals are created equal. I’m leery of journals where someone can pay to have their material published and trust the process more when a panel of peer reviewers must accept the research. The impact factor is a good way to measure the relative importance of the journal.
I have found a few pages with in-depth reviews of the science literature surrounding the safety of GMOs and biotechnology in our food supply. Continue reading →
What’s that you say? There’s a rally on Market Square today? What’s the cause? Oh, they are marching against GMO foods…
Today, Saturday, May 25, thousands of people across the globe are organizing a March Against Monsanto. The group claims in a mission statement that GMO foods are not sustainable and cause harm through increased risk of cancers, infertility, and birth defects. The group believes that chemicals produced by Monsanto, like glyphosphate (Roundup), are poisoning our environment. This group strongly dislikes government and FDA support and approval of GMO foods and the recent, as they call it, Monsanto Protection Act. This groups wants to unveil the truth about GMOs, boycott Monsanto, and increase research on the harm caused by consuming GMO foods. You can read more about the desires of this event on the March Against Monsanto page. I’ve included the links to the MAM page, because you’ll find it through an easy google search and we might as well learn what everyone has to say about it.
I think that it is great that we have the freedom of speech and choice in this country. But at the same time I believe that activists rallying against Monsanto would be better off to direct their attention to better efforts. Monsanto is a company that has responded to the demands of consumer markets. They are one of many companies supplying seeds through the use of biotechnology to help farmers produce more crops with fewer inputs and have a smaller impact on the environment per unit produced.
If these concerned folks really want to make a stronger impact against GMO, there are a few more productive steps that could be taken: stop purchasing food and products from organizations that do not support your beliefs, support local food sources, grow your own food, and take time to have an open mind and respect others’ choices. Most of us could benefit from doing a little more research and hear out both sides of the issues. There’s good science and there’s bad science, we need to learn how to identify both.
What do farmers and agriculture have to say on the issue? Here is a run-down of a few topics and several perspectives that have been shared with me this week. I trust these individuals for information and I hope you’ll take time to hear out their $0.02. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, I started a series featuring biotechnology tools used in cattle herds across the country. David and Jennifer Heim are friends of mine and own a dairy farm in northeast Kansas. The Heims milk 85-100 Holstein cows and raise their heifer calves as replacements. They also raise corn, soybeans, hay, and other forages, mostly for feed. Jennifer greatly enjoys spending time with her breeding and genetics program and does an awesome job blogging about the events and decisions made on the farm. When she wrote this blog post describing their use of Artificial Insemination in the herd, I was pretty excited that she is allowing me to share it with you.
Breeding is important, but it really doesn’t matter what you breed a cow to if she doesn’t get pregnant. Last spring, we started using blood tests to confirm pregnancies. Since then we’ve tweaked our protocol to best suit our herd’s needs. Our milk hauler picks up our blood samples, and I am usually home on Sundays to draw blood, so every other Sunday, when our milk will be picked up on a Monday morning, I take blood samples from cows and heifers that were bred between 8 and 10 weeks prior who have not shown a heat since. The test can indicate pregnancy at 28 days, but we were observing a lot of heats just shortly after testing, and about a month after testing, when we were testing earlier. We’ve been on the every-other week at 8 weeks bred schedule for 3 or 4 months now, and have had very few come back in heat after being confirmed pregnant.
Several weeks ago we wrapped up pregnancy confirmations on all our cows and heifers that were bred in 2012. We tallied everything up, and here’s what we learned:
What are your conception rates with artificial insemination?
We started out the year with great conception – about 60%. Then we had two unexplained terrible months in March and April. Summer brought normal lulls due to heat, but was still better than March or April. After the heat subsided and the herd adjusted, we finished the year with solid conception and a lot of pregnancies, including several cows who were on their final attempts. Next fall may be busier than this one was.
Food is important to everyone. No Farms. No Food. It is important that connection be made.
Agriculture impacts everyone and has an important story to be told. If you’ve been a subscriber of this blog for very long, you know that I am a huge believer in this and I encourage everyone involved in the Agriculture community to make their voices heard. The time has passed when we can sit on the sidelines and listen to the mainstream media and general public bash the integrity of our food producers. We are a minority and it’s time we make our voices heard. Dodge RAM launched the 2013 – Year of the Farmer campaign with the “So God Made a Farmer” Superbowl ad, and it’s only appropriate we carry that message forward.
At the same time it is even more important that we are able to listen to our customers and their concerns. Until we are able to accomplish that, we will find it difficult to make progress.
Have a question for farmers and ranchers about their impact on our environment? Leave a comment below or submit on the Ask a Farmer tab!
On Earth Day 2013, April 22, a group originating in Canada is encouraging us to make a statement about the future of Agriculture. Their objectives are made in the video above and in this statement:
Young people have been at the forefront of every important social movement in history. #FarmVoices is raising the profile of farmers by sharing their stories with the world, one image at a time. It’s. Our. Turn.
The FarmOn group and #FarmVoices campaign encourages the Agriculture community to share its message on Earth Day (April 22) through images that answer these 3 questions:
What do you love about farming?
What challenge do you face that threatens your ability to farm?
How do you care for your land and animals?
Please take a moment to share this message online through social media or through any events or activities you are involved in for Earth Day. Tag your posts with #FarmVoices.
The above images and video come from the FarmOn website. Learn more about the message and download more photos and materials at FarmOn.com or the Facebook page.