Category Archives: Agriculture in the News

Pros and Cons of GMO labeling

Labeling food that has GMO ingredients has become a very controversial and heated topic in todays society. Especially with more people wanting to go organic and wanting to be more careful about what they eat. GMO labeling could lead to many pros and cons so figuring out what the best choice is for both consumers and producers is very hard.

First the pros, labeling which products have GMOs will allow consumers to have knowledge and be able to choose a product they feel is best for their lifestyle and values. Today consumers are all about transparency, GMO labeling will allow for a stronger relationship between producer and consumer. A stronger relationship will allow the trust of farmers by consumers to continue to grow. Also, producers with a niche can squeeze their way into the market. Consumers are willing to pay higher prices so industry will benefit and new players will emerge.

Second the cons, the big word here is misinterpretation. Labels could become very confusing for consumers, things such as “natural” mean little to nothing but consumers start to believe its more. Consumers tend to have not enough knowledge when looking at labels. As soon as consumers sees “GMO ingredients” they’ll put it back on the shelf and reach for the organic choice which in reality may not be the better choice. Organic is another word with much misinterpretation due to nothing actually proving its better for your health or the environment. Lastly, the effects on the poor. GMO ingredients are perceived to be unsafe when in reality thats not true. The poor will become food insecure and end up spending money on food because labels scare them away.

Guest Lecture: Michele Walfred

I enjoyed Michele’s guest lecture about social media. At first, I was somewhat skeptical because of how she talked down social media. She explained how people use it to update others about their day-to-day lives and actions, and how it is somewhat overkill. However, I think that is what the entire platform of social media is for. It is to stay connected to those who you cannot talk to every day face to face. However, I thoroughly enjoyed where the lecture went! Michelle explained how you can utilize social media in a positive light. She said how you can use it professionally, and how you can shine light on common misconceptions, and fake news. You can use your social media accounts for more then just every day updates; you can use it to educate those who do not have access to university information and knowledge. Education is the first step for change. There is so much fake news and science nonbelievers especially in the realm of agriculture. Instead of complaining or being unprofessional on social media when addressing these issues, you can use your platform to educate those and provide credible resources with real science and news. Social media can be positive, it just depends on how you decide to use it!

Monsanto: A company that is better than what your friend told you.

Science and agriculture together do seem scary but really that is how we learn, practice, study and much more for everything we create and discover. Monsanto is a large company that does a lot of science work for the agriculture industry.

Science based research and development over the past 100 years have resulted in a huge increase in US crop production via improved agronomic practices, the adoption of ever improving mechanical, chemical and biological tools. This science has allowed Mid-Atlantic farmers to provide steadily larger crops while at the same time improving soil quality and fostering an environment that supports a thriving wildlife population.

The changing tools for agriculture pest management began at hand and animal labor. Then it went to mechanical labor by the use of steel. Next is chemical labor that used small molecules such as no-till. And today biological which uses proteins and RNA through GMOs. “What are GMOs? Biotechnology in plant agriculture has come to mean the process of intentionally making a copy of a gene for a desired trait from one plant or organism and using it in another plant. The result is a GMO (genetically modified organism).” Some commercial products of biotechnology are RoundUp Ready Corn which allows growers to be more effective and efficient in the control of weeds. YieldGard Corn allows growers to manage yield robbing insects without the need to spray. DroughtGard Corn enhances drought tolerance in corn for tough environments. Lastly, Vistive Gold/Plenish Soybeans are soybeans that provide a vegetable oil that is more healthy for consumers.

To date, more than 2,000 scientific studies have assessed the safety of these crops in terms of human health and environmental impact. These studies together with several reviews performed on a case by case from regulatory agencies around the world, have enabled a solid and clear scientific consensus: GM crops have no more risk than those that have been developed by conventional breeding techniques.

Water is Key!

Growing crops isn’t as simple as just watering the whole field every so often and hoping they’ll grow. The soil texture and make up, along with the crop type both play large roles in the frequency and efficiency of watering. Additionally, both of these factors can vary throughout one plot of land that is serviced by the same watering equipment. James Adkins spoke to our class about irrigation, which has developed greatly over time. Center pivot irrigation may be one of the more common types that the community is used to seeing, as they are designed as a giant sprinkler device that has paths to rotate position to reach every part of the field. In addition to center pivot irrigation, there are also a few other types: traveling gun, surface drip, and sub-surface drip. Each type provides different benefits and are best suited for different crops.

The newer technologies available to farmers, which include drones, allow farmers to recognize the different needs of their crops and land in individual areas, rather than just assess as one large plot. For example, the soil may change in the middle of a corn field, causing it to need more water than a different area. A drone is capable of flying above the field and using electro-conductivity mapping to spot weak and strong areas within a crop field! There are also handheld devices that test for soil conditions such as nutrients and water hold capacity that provide immediate results for that specific location within the field. Each of these new irrigation technologies have helped to advance agriculture, making it not only more efficient but also more conservation cautious and environmentally friendly!

Social Media

Today’s society depends on and uses technology, especially social media, more than ever before. Some may say even especially in college students. I can admit that I am guilty of sometimes being too wrapped up in my phone and social sites. Therefore, I appreciated Mrs. Walfred’s lecture about social media and its potentially effects on our careers and futures in general. The ease and efficiency of having everything at our fingertips, and being able to post in the blink of an eye makes it simple to upload or post without thoroughly thinking through what the post may actually say about ourselves. Through social media, we create a brand for ourselves that speaks about our ideas, morals, and values before we may even get a chance to say a word. Thanks to Mrs. Walfred’s lecture, the rumors of potential employers checking my social media sites have been confirmed, and I know to keep everything connected to my real, full name professional and consistent. Additionally, which I was unaware of, it is possible to rebuild your brand! Of course when we are younger, the future seems like lightyears away, and we may not consider employers when we are posting a crazy story or picture. However, through blogging, educated commenting, and editing of privacy settings, we can rebuild ourselves online to be the great employee we know we are. Mrs. Walfred’s lecture was helpful and informative, especially at this stage in my life, and I think more college students or even high school students should be made aware of their image.

Mark Lynas Oxford Farming Conference

After watching the video of Mark Lynas at the 2013 Oxford Farming Conference, I have more hope in education than I had before. Mark Lynas is a prime example of someone who was anti-GMO and anti-Science. He was against technology that he did not understand, and used misconceptions and fear to alter peoples perspectives of a technology that was supposed to help save the world’s declining agriculture. Due to climate change, increasing population, and declining soil nutrition, Agriculture faces more challenges than ever before. Mark Lynas was again against GMO’s because of his lack of understanding of them. Through education he was able to deepen his understanding of how GMO’s work, and how they effect the world. I think that now more than ever, he is an incredibly powerful and influential position in the environmental and agricultural world. He was anti-science himself, and through education he was able to stand up for what was right. I think that he is able to reach out to more people, and change peoples’ minds about GMOs because he was once a non-believer. I think that he will bring a down to earth perspective, and will be able to relate to people who are still against this technology. He had an incredibly grounded reason of why he changed his mind from anti to pro. He read peer-reviewed papers, and read articles, and did research, and he attended appropriate conferences. Through this education and new-found knowledge he  was able to support a technology that is helping to save the world. GMO’s are creating plants that are stronger against environmental stresses such as pests, and hot weather, and they are also creating plants that are richer in nutrients and helping humans stay healthy. I commend Mark Lynas for his research and his search for the truth!

Mark Lynas’s Lecture at the Oxford Farming Conference

Whether you agree with genetically modified crops or not, everyone should watch Mark Lynas’s lecture at the Oxford Farming Conference. He was against GMO’s for years before discovering the science behind it, and admitted he assumed it was bad because it was under Monsanto, a big American business. After doing research, he realized GMO’s were actually beneficial, required less pesticides to be applied, were safer the traditional modified crops, and were necessary to feed the growing population on the amount of land we have. GMO’s have tremendously helped developing countries who need larger yields and more nutritional content. GMO’s also benefit the farmers rather than the big companies, contrary to what most people believe. Mark Lynas did a great job of explaining his ignorance to GMO’s and explaining that when you understand the science behind it, that they are necessary and beneficial.

Mark Lynas Lecture

After listening to the Mark Lynas lecture about his change of thought on GMOs I strongly believe everyone involved in the GMO controversy should listen to his explanation and new thoughts on GMOs. I am in full support of the use of GMOs and agree with Mark Lynas change in approach. I respected how Mr. Lynas first took the time to explain why he was against GMOs in the first place and I believe many people have the same thinking processes as he did when he first heard of the use of GMOs. He explained how he thought GMOs were just being used by a big American corporation with not much thought and that it would go horribly wrong in the long run. He then explained how he had actually never done research in the field till later and then discovered that GMOs were a necessity for humankind and the growing population. Mark Lynas makes a very strong case for his change of heart by evaluating how he first approached the situation and then how he learned more about all the benefits of GMOs. Throughout his lecture he explains all of the reasons he now supports the use of GMOs including that GMO crops actually need less chemicals, it was benefiting farmers instead of big companies and finally he explained how it is actually a safer and more precise way of growing crops. I believe many people who are against the use of GMOs have not done research in the field and assume right away its bad like Mark Lynas did at the beginning of his career. I want to spread the knowledge of GMOs being safe and a necessity to farming with the growing population. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Mark Lynas lecture and am happy to see someone who was against GMOs spreading his new-found knowledge and supporting them.

Switching Sides

As an environmentalist, Mark Lynas assumed he should be against genetically modified organisms, GMOs, because of course, the environment is natural and nothing about the term “genetically modified” really screams “natural.” However, with more research he realized that these genetically modified products are more in favor of the environment than he realized, and therefore he began to accept and fight for their use. I really appreciated listening to Mr. Lynas’ speech because it brought the science out in front of the understandingly intimidating name. I think a lot of people get hung up on the terminology of GMOs, and that prevents them from educating themselves further on the topic.

The analogy that Mr. Lynas’ drew between supporting the idea of climate change and supporting the idea of genetic modifications is really important. One cannot believe in science in some aspects, yet denounce it in others. Many people are starting to agree that science supports climate change, and that we, as a society, should recognize it as real. However, science also supports the benefits of genetic modifications, yet not as many people are willing to agree. The increased yields, the ability to apply less pesticides, and the ability to withstand environmental effects such as droughts are proven benefits of GMOs that research has supported.  Because he believed in climate change and supported it so passionately, Mr. Lynas’ knew he needed to give the same effort to his opinion about GMOs. Upon doing so, he realized he was misinformed and changed his opinion, which I believe was justified.

Mr. Lynas may have been a bit blunt in his discussion, but I do think that his points were well supported and are needed as an educational tool. Surely, if one were looking for information to form an opinion about GMOs, this video would be a beneficial source, but one should also look at other resources before completely forming his or her opinion. Personally, I have always been pro-GMO and as a supporter it is important to educate those around me. However, I think there is most likely more research to be done involving GMOs, which can hopefully provide reason to gain more public support. Mr. Lynas is right in that people are nostalgically looking towards old farming practices while the world around them is developing and changing, so why shouldn’t agriculture be allowed to progress into the future as well?

Technology is OUR Future

Technology has evolved in every aspect over the years. Today, we all own some form of technology to benefit our lives. I mean who else ever imaged having a computer at their fingertips? Even our farms have evolved with technology. From the structures to the sprayers to the seeds, technology has benefited not only the farmers life, but every person on this Earth. Technology has allowed farmers to grow more food with less land.

According to Hoober’s Employees, it all begins with the seed. Seeds are genetically modified and selectively bred to produce a better product. This process will was discussed to our classes previously and will have a post of it’s own in the near future.

Next, technology benefits begin with a seedling to the end product that is harvested. In the beginning a planter, which plants the seeds, has evolved in a variety of ways. Today a planter can turn off rows that are already planted and the tractor can drive itself with an operator in the seat to have straight rows. Then, the sprayer has changed. A sprayer puts herbicides, pesticides and other products that plants needs. 99% of the liquid coming out of a sprayer is water! Technology has allowed no overlap to occur which economically keeps the exact amount of products needed on the field, which allows for no runoff. Lastly, combines which harvest the crop has the same monitor as the planter and it can harvest the same exact way it is planted with the GPS system. My classmates and I experienced this first hand on our field trip to Hoobers in Middletown, DE.

Now these are only a few changes that has allowed technology to change our lives. Many other pieces of equipment allow farmers to feed our growing population, such as drones, computers, soil types, etc. From now on think about how well technology has benefited you from all aspects!




The GMO controversy

In January, 2013, environmentalist and author Mark Lynas, a self-proclaimed founder and activist for Europe’s anti-GMO (he uses the term GM) movement, spoke before the annual Oxford (UK) Farming Conference and announced a 180 degree change in his opinion about GMOs, and disassociated himself with the anti GMO movement (whom he calls “antis”) that he helped grow into a successful protest movement. His remarks, recorded and presented below,  explain his reasons for his change in attitude.  Read the >>>Transcript Mark Lynas 2013 Oxford Farming Conference.

Mark Lynas
Click the image above to play the video


The use of genetically modified organisms, commonly referred to as GMOs, is highly controversial topic. Lynas’s  speech, the transcription of which can be found on his website (if you’d like to read along), sent shock waves across the agricultural sector and has received world-wide attention.

What do you think of his position? Does he make a case for his change of heart and the way he now views GMOs?

Hoober Field Trip

On Saturday October 7th 2017, our class went on a field trip to Hoober. During this trip, we learned about Hoober’s most popular choice in precision Ag equipment- the sprayer. (I have a  picture attached of the sprayer I operated) The reason this is an important piece of equipment is due to it’s purpose of spraying pesticides or herbicides. This is a vital job that helps maintain the well being of a farmer’s crops from bugs consuming their crops or a foreign weed from taking nutrients/and or any other beneficial factor away from the crop. As far as what is new and emerging for precision Ag, they mentioned that a laptop is used to conduct many tests before equipment is operated such as soil conductivity, field data that could not be seen before… This is focused on data management; for instance, nutrient control is done this way because the farmer needs to put nitrogen down only where it is needed. A fun fact about Hoober: approximately 15% of their customers know how to utilize these specific features on their equipment.

Considering how much fun everyone had watching the two drones take off into the sky, we learned a considerable amount of information too. Such as the fact that one needs a license to fly drones. I believe Mike, at Hoobers, said he had a hobbiest license and some of his limitations are to fly below 400 feet high and to operate the drone within their eyesight. Drones have many purposes other than taking pictures of the fields and deciding how it should continue to be taken care of or where improvements must occur. It is used in real estate to sell the hotel rooms to military usage. In my opinion, precision Ag technologies have indefinitely changed the way farmers operate their farms because of precision planting- this is the usage of seed meters, wiring, controllers, and hardware. Mark made it vital to note the importance of the combine machine and how it can harvest corn, soybeans, lentil crops. It has many moving parts that need to be well contained. Mike and Brian commented that to work in the precision Ag field, one must have an Ag background, patience,and mechanical experience.

Overall, I’d like to say that I learned a significant amount of information from the field trip and learned how to operate (with instructions) a sprayer tractor. Also, Mark noted the extreme importance in the need for people who specialize in particular parts of the processes.

Agriculture in the News

This article talks about how on Wednesday September 14, 2016 it was announced that Bayer a chemical company best know for its pharmaceuticals such as aleve and asprin would be buying out Monsanto to cause one of the biggest agricultural mergers ever seen. The buy out was valued at approximately $66 billion and has caused much uncertainty to some of the public as this is yet another huge merger of agricultural and chemical businesses. This deal marks as the biggest German takeover yet of an American firm.

Mark Lynas and the GMO Movement

In 2013, Mark Lynas, a writer and activist gave a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference and was exceedingly open about how his view on GMO crops had drastically changed. He spoke about how his anti-GMO stand boiled down to a lack of education on the subject, stating directly that he, “had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited personal understanding.” So basically in the 1990’s when he was advocating against GMO’s he was flying by the seat of his pants, but mid 2000’s he started doing some reading, and found out many of the things he had believed were in fact false and backed up by facts and research. Within his speech Lynas makes some great points about how important GMO’s are, that they are basically needed to keep crop yield high enough to support the growing population.

I think that is was very big of Lynas to not only admit that he has had a change of heart, but also to do it so publicly. He apologizes for his actions, but is not necessarily ashamed of them, it shows that peoples minds do change and it’s a socially okay thing. After addressing why his change of heart occurred he continues to beef up the argument for the use of GMO’s in our society. How there are a major number of benefits and few cons to GMO’s that people aren’t often aware of, or completely educated about, emphasizing that there is no real reason GMO’s should be banned.