Tag Archives: Genetically modified organism

Science Resources that support Biotechnology and GMO in food

knowledge is power science research gmo biotechnology genetically modified foodWhere 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

Blogstorming | Brainstorming blog ideas with search engine tools

Part of my series sharing tips to improve blogging (Link)
Part of my series sharing tips to improve blogging (Link)

There’s nothing worse for a writer than sitting down and not being able to form a complete sentence. No matter how hard you try, comprehending a complete thought seems next to impossible. For my fellow ag bloggers, I urge you to keep tapping into your endless material and try a little concept I have dubbed “blogstorming“.

The name came up as a result of tied tongue on my part in a conversation with one of my favorite bloggers known as JPlovescotton. Blogstorming = blog + brain storming. Take a moment, sit down, and brain storm a list of topics you may be able to write about. Start with your daily task list, include things that are occurring in the current season in farm production, and add in a few headlines from recent news stories that peaked your interest.

One of the biggest catches we (agriculture bloggers in general) are missing out on is hot topics. We need to write more about controversial subjects, sharing our experience, and expressing our opinions. Consumers are searching Google for all sorts of food and farm related topics, and ag bloggers are not near the top on these search results. We need to change that.

blogging tips topic ideas writing
The rules of Blogstorming from JP.

Some of my most popular, frequented, and long-term posts have sprung from sitting down to answer a specific question. What do cattle eat? Is feeding corn to cattle safe? Why do farmers castrate cattle? What is a good agriculture degree? What farmers use antibiotics and hormones? The posts resulting from these simple questions pop up as views on my blog from search engines on a daily basis. One of these posts may draw as much as 25% of my daily views; on a post more than 2 years old! So why aren’t we writing more posts answering more questions like these? Continue reading

GMO Activists March Against Monsanto – Farmers’ Perspective

What’s that you say? There’s a rally on Market Square today? What’s the cause? Oh, they are marching against GMO foods…

march against monsanto gmo food biotechnology
Image via March Against Monsanto

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

Food Perspectives – Take some personal responsibility

I walk into a local burger joint, place my order, and wait on my food. My plate is served and in front of me is a burger. I see a patty of ground beef, two slices of bacon, swiss cheese, pickles, lettuce, grilled onions, and mushrooms with a side of broccoli and cheese. Not everyone’s burger looks the same. What do you see on your plate?

Some folks imagine their burger looks like this…

food policy hamburgerI didn’t see those ingredients on the menu. Where did the bleach, ammonia, and sodium benzoate come from? Filler. “Cheese?” “Fresh.” What are those things supposed to mean? Not everyone has the same perspective on the food we eat.

The image above is from a Food Policy meeting I attended on campus last year. I had been talking about food education online for a few years, but needed to take more physical steps to educate myself on the opinions’ of folks on the other side of the table. I haven’t had the schedule to be able to attend meetings as often I had hoped, but it was still an eye-opening experience. This group of folks is dead set on having organic, local, natural foods brought to campus and honestly are not that engaging when it comes time for my questions.

There are groups of Americans who have lost faith, trust, and belief in our modern food systems. Many are skeptical about most things they hear and want to return to the good old days of ‘natural’ food. It’s a nostalgic perspective of times that likely weren’t as good as they seem. We are all guilty of grasping at story lines we want to be true. Sometimes it’s a matter of whether we decide to apply common sense or do a little investigation for ourselves.

The internet is a scary place. We can look up information on most any topic, most of which lacks validation for truth prior to posting. We have been let down so many times by false information, it’s human nature to cast a skeptical eye on what we’ve been told. Unfortunately, many do not take time to validate those facts, hoping that surely it must be true, and often times we can end up grasping at “bad science” to promote our beliefs. Sometimes folks want something to be true so badly, they will lash-out aggressively at others who are doing differently. Others literally block all those with opposing views. The internet seems to remove that filter on our comments the ability of civil conversations.

Should we take the news and media a reliable source of information? Surely, the media wouldn’t be biased in their coverage. Wait, do you remember the 2012 Election? Fox News wasn’t the only offender. Leaders within ABC News recently admitted they have portrayed news “in a slightly inaccurate way.” Should that statement expand beyond politics, maybe to their coverage of food and agriculture headlines like ‘pink slime’? Those lawsuits are still on-going.

Back to the image above. How should we learn more about what is really in our food? Should farmers alone be the authority? I grew up on a ranch and have spent the last several years of my life traveling the country and studying more about livestock production. But don’t take my word for it! According to the comments on my CNN articles, I am just a sell-out, a shill of corporate agriculture.

To be honest, I can’t say that I’m excited about the extent to which highly processed foods take over the shelves in our grocery stores, but it’s my own personal responsibility to make my food choices. It’s my dollar that chooses which food goes on my plate. Farmers really shouldn’t be the ones to blame; they are the ones making the raw materials. The food markets, cash flow and government regulation are the driver of food processing. *Keep in mind, not all processing is bad. Some is for our food safety from naturally occurring germs.*

I read an article last month that claimed more folks die each day from obesity than undernourishment. Food and health is a matter of personal responsibility, not a blame game to be played at the expense of some news ratings.

I can’t tell you where to get credible information about your food sources. Farmers are a piece of that puzzle, but not the entire pie. If you have lost faith in those individuals, I can’t tell you where to turn, because sound, reviewed science probably doesn’t do it for you either.

don't believe what is on the internetAnd finally, please stop posting all of those memes and Facebook photos claiming the latest cure-all or home remedy. More often than not, someone was just bored and looking for attention.