Category Archives: Classroom Materials

Extra Credit #3- Center for Food Integrity ‘Gene Editing’ – Reflection

On October 9th, after a class discussing precision agriculture technology and data management, we were asked to do a reading from November 2018 on the Center for Food Integrity‘s ‘Gene Editing, Engage in the Conversation’ about speaking to opponents of gene-editing – namely the pre-2013 Mark LYNAS” of the world, anti-GMO supporter.

In the article, it is explained that gene-editing is the key to producing, ‘healthier, more affordable, and abundant food with less land and water-use’ and that consumers are, ‘inherently curious’ about the source of their food and how it’s produced.  It is the job of ‘Ag-vocates’ to explain biotech to those who are curious or misinformed.  It is helpful to provide tangible examples, and real-world visuals and anecdotes to aid in communication.

First, it is helpful to explain what gene-editing is, which is ,’the precise, intentional, and beneficial change of the genetic material of plants and animals used in food production for additional health, nutrition, and environmental benefits.’ Many consumers don’t believe plants even have DNA or contain genes.

When presenting knowledge about the gene-editing technique CRISPr to those consumers, finding experts whose knowledge is easily digestible is key.

Secondly, explain how gene-editing is beneficial to human health, i.e., use common ailments like cancers (leukemia, sickle cell, lung cancer) to frame gene-editing in a positive light.

Third, talk about how gene-editing has evolved with time. The process of cross-breeding plants with trial-and-error is a lengthy procedure that can take decades, while targeted editing is much quicker.

Fourth, find benefits that align with public desires.  Honing in on what consumers want, be it improved animal welfare or protecting the environment can be the key to swaying dissenters to the side of biotech.

Two analogies used to explain gene-editing are, ‘The Blueprint’ and, ‘the Encyclopedia’ to explain how making small aesthetic changes to a house does not make it structurally unsound or uninhabitable and can make it increasingly easy to find where the right resources are located, respectively.

Ultimately values, and not facts, are typically what sway both hearts and minds.

Finally, the article ends with a helpful glossary of terms and online resources, as well as the relatively recently established in 2016, ‘Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture‘. The Coalition is a collection of various entities from different fields who have shared values about gene-editing.


Who doesn’t love horses?

In Delaware, the horse racing is a large industry. Horse racing dates back to 1760 where the first racing facility was built in Newark, DE. Today, Harrington Raceway is the oldest continuously operating harness racing track in the country. In Delaware we race Harness and Thoroughbred.

Harness racing is when there is a cart and rider behind the horse. Harness racing in Delaware happens about 200 days of out the year, with approximately 2,300 races. Whereas thoroughbred is when there is a jockey on the back of the horse and is typically raced 80 days out of the year, with about 600 races.


This industry is highly regulated. You must have a license to race and they only hand out 2,000 a year in Delaware. These licenses go to owners, trainers, drivers, groomers, vendors and track employees. Regulations include overseeing the race, tracks, paddocks, safety, welfare, and testing on both the racer and the horse. Testing can occur at any time and any substance can be tested.

Now we are talking money. In 2014, the horse racing industry total contribution to the Delaware economy was nearly $182 million, including the support of 1,540 jobs. It is great to know that every $100 spent by a horseman, tracks, agencies and associations results in $182 of total spending in Delaware. For each race the 1st place owner receives 50% of the purse, 2nd place owner is 25%, 3rd place owner gets 12%, 4th place gets 8% and 5th place gets 5%. While the driver of the winning horse get 5% and trainer gets 5%. The average purse for harness racing is $50,000. Be sure to stop by a local raceway and see a race for yourself!

Livestock: Beef, Pork, Poultry, Lamb, and Goat

In the United States 98% of farms are family owned and operated while 2% of the U.S. population produces your meals. Livestock is animals that are raised for meat for human consumption. Dan Severson, New Castle County Extension Agent educated my class about the diversity of livestock.

In Delaware, we have 296,380 head of beef cattle. These cattle are raised in a cow/calf, feedlots or stocker operation. We also have people who raise beef to show and for direct market. It contributes $6 million to our economy.

Hogs are raised on a farrow to finish, farrow to feeders, or feeders to finish farm. They have $2 million industry with 59,580 head of hogs grown in Delaware annually. Hogs can also be raised for show, direct market or in a pasture.

Sheep contribute $92,000, with 69,104 of them. They are typically raised in a backyard, as a part-time job, and for show, hair or wool.

Contributing $125,000, goats have three different kinds – meat, milk and Angora. Goats are grown for direct market, show or because they are a niche. We typically use goat milk for soap and lotion.

We do have a large population of poultry grown in Delaware and were spoke about in depth with Georgie Cartanza. Other livestock in Delaware include bees, bison, alpaca, rabbits, water buffalo, deer and elk.

The Pros and Cons of Enhanced Labeling

Over the course of the semester, several of my classes have touched on enhanced labeling–labeling foods that tell how the whole product was made and what it contains. From this there could be many pros and cons for both the consumer and the producer. Due to there being full disclosure, consumers may be more trusting of the industry or the farmer, and thus may be more likely to buy it. There would also be more benefits, such as not having a reaction to something that’s potentially in the food (e.g. some gluten free foods contain up to 20% gluten). With this, there are also some negatives. The consumer may want to be ignorant and not know what is in their food, which this would overcome. Not only this but consumers may feel guilty about what is done to process that food (e.g. how much water and transportation is need) and thus also scare off the consumer due to the long label.

For the producer, there are several pros and cons as well. For one, this can enhance niche markets (e.g. how organic something is) or even create new ones (e.g. how environmentally friendly it is). It also but;ds trust between the company and the consumer by disclosing information, thus they may be able to sell more (make a larger profit). Sadly, there are also some cons, such as losing money if the consumer doesn’t like how the product is made or is scared off by the large label. Over all, no one could predict how the majority of the population would respond to enhanced labeling but I for one think it would be interesting to see.

Newark Farm Tour

Not only was this past Saturdays weather very cool, so was our field trip around the Newark farm. Scott Hopkins, the University of Delaware farm superintendent  gave us a fascinating tour of the Webb Farm.

We were fortunate enough to see the milking parlor and learn that dairy cows are the most challenging animal to care for on the farm. Growing up on my families dairy operation I was able to see and experience first hand how labor extensive taking care of dairy cows can be and understood greatly what Scott Hopkins was explaining.

Not only did we see the dairy operation but we saw the beef, sheep and equine facilities. The equine facility was rather new with a large classroom that was very versatile and could also be used a spot for more hands on learning such as artificial insemination, collecting semen or even having the option to do some horse therapy and therapeutic riding. We also learned about the extensive research projects being conducted, Mr. Hopkins favorite being forage research.

We ended our trip with a stop at UDairy creamery. This was for sure one of my favorite field trips because of all the research being done in such close proximity.

UD Webb Farm Field Trip

Although I was not able to attend the field trip this weekend, again due to vet school interviews and upcoming exams, I was able to get some information on it. After reading some posts and having my friends reiterate what happened, I find that the field trip was like a collection of all the knowledge I have gained through my ANFS classes.

The tour guide for the day talked about all the information we learn in the vast opportunities the farm offers UD students, such as volunteering, jobs, research, and labs. The guide talked about some of the feedstuffs. One of the most prominent ones being silages, which you can see being made in the silo bags around the farm. He also talked about the dairy cattle, who are a huge resource here for students. We learn how to milk cows properly, how to make ice, cream and about dietary research, typically dealing with the rumen.

Not only do we learn about dairy, but we learn about beef cattle when we are on the farm. They are not only important for learning about the beef industry, but in taking ANFS251, we learn about how to properly score the beef cattle on a range of 1-9. Another large animal we learn about are equines, or horses if you will. The horses here are a great learning opportunity, especially for scoring and behavior. Some of the ones we have at the UD farm are rescues or are too old to race any longer.

We also have sheep. My freshman year we learned a lot about sheep and how they act as a herd. We learned how they are flock animals and we have to herd them inside as such. Not only this but we learned how to separate them from the group as to trim the hooves (something I didn’t know was possible until coming to UD). One of the things I found interesting, that the guide retold, was how we can see if sheep have been mated using “crayons.” We check the females backends for coloring to see if the male had mated with her, as he has the coloration on his chest.

And one of the most notable forms of research, dealing with animals, on UD is chickens. Throughout the last semester, I often saw chickens being vaccinated and being tested. One of the places the students learned about on the trip was the poultry house and how we test for different variables and vaccines.

These are all really important aspects of the UD farm and wonderful opportunities. I am very thankful for all the wonderful teachers, and not just the ones you find in a classroom.

Mark Lynas – 2013 Oxford Farming Conference

I once heard a quote from an anonymous source that said, “to admit that you were wrong is to declare that you are now wiser than you were before.” This holds especially true for Mark Lynas, an environmental activist who focuses on the impacts of climate change as well as GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms. For many years, Lynas was anti-GMO – he believed it was against nature, assumed it would increase the use of chemicals, that it would only benefit large companies, and various other so-called “green urban myths.” But in 2013 at the Oxford Farming Conference, Lynas himself admitted that he was wrong in his beliefs. When it came to climate change, he would use science as evidence to prove that it did indeed exist, though when it came to GMOs he followed his personal beliefs. After doing thorough research, Lynas came to his own conclusion which was entirely different from the point of view he had only 5 years before. He shared that he once believed that genetic modification would increase the use of chemicals, and later learned that genetic modification could increase resistance to pests and disease, therefore reducing the use of chemicals; he believed that GM was only beneficial to big businesses, while in actuality billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs; Lynas assumed that GM was dangerous, and later learned that it was much safer and significantly more precise that conventional breeding.

Through analyzing his beliefs, doing his own research from trustworthy/science-based sources, and admitting to the public at one of the largest agriculture-based conferences in the world that his beliefs were wrong, Lynas seems to have set a precedent that more people should follow. That being: do not be afraid to admit that you may not be knowledgeable about a specific topic. It is never too late to stop learning, and by doing so you can come to a more accurate conclusion regarding the topic at hand – regardless of whether or not your opinion on the matter changes. In my opinion, it takes a strong individual to stand up for their beliefs; it takes an even stronger individual to change their beliefs when faced with new found information.



Opinion on Mark Lynas’ speech

It is apparent that Mark Lynas had a huge change of opinion. He, at one point, didn’t believe in GMOs and was 100% anti-GMOs. Over time, after doing some research, he determined that he was wrong, and only knew the myths. Through his research, he found many benefits of GMOs, but also several disadvantages to organic farming.

He makes a solid case for pro-GMOs. Several examples include increased crop yield, increased nutrient levels, increased drought resistance, etc. These are exemplary reasons for being pro-GMO, as they help many people in different ways. For example, he touches on the golden rice that would be beneficial to those who are poor and in need of beta-carotene—an essential precursor to vitamin A, which is important in vision. He also goes on to note that this would help feed more people since there yields are higher, less land is needed, and there is an increase in production.

Is his thinking justified? Sure. Do I agree with them? To a point. I think GMOs are essential to feeding the world, especially since there will be over 9 billion people in 2050. But I don’t think they are as positive as portrayed. For example, in my ENGL230 class—environmental literature—one of the books that touches on GMOs notes that those plants that do produce more, need more energy and nutrients. If a plant needs more nutrients and energy then we have to supply that in some way, otherwise the soil does become depleted. Not only this, but we have still cut down a large portion of land for such cropping, causing habitat deforestation and fragmentation.

I also think that organic also has its place. The consumer knows exactly what they are getting; there is no guessing about what is in the food or the processing it has gone through in the same way as a GMO food. Although this may be more costly in some manners, the farmer/ producer also gets to have a stronger relationship with the plants; that person/ people is interacting with the plant on a more “personal” basis.

Overall, both GMOs and organic have their place and are important for different consumers. All farming will be needed to help feeding the world’s hungry. Getting there will take time and a mental readjustment for many. It is undoubtable that GMOs will be the future.

Hoober’s Field Trip

Although I was not able to attend the field trip to Hoober’s for various reasons, I was able to do some research and get some feedback from my friends. Hoober’s offers a wide variety of services and technology in precision agriculture, from their UpTime Service to drones and combines. They have come a long way since the 1940’s when they began. They are able to help many more people, as they have locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. This allows for a lot more and better agricultural production. Their most popular piece of equipment are the sprayers and planters. These have huge value as they are very important for agriculture and “feeding the world.” But after hearing about riding tractors, I can’t help but think that’s the best of them all, as I’ve been doing that since I was little. I think it is important to realize that these machines aren’t only something that has utility, but something that can be of sentimental value and great fun, whether that’s enjoying being outside operating a machine, or being pulled by a tractor while sitting in a wagon full of hay. From this I think there can be a lot learned in a fun and purposeful manner.

Ed Kee’s lecture on Iowa and California Ag

I found Ed Kee’s second lecture to be just as interesting as his first. He again touched on agriculture, but this time, on states I have never visited: Iowa and California. It was interesting to find that they are the two largest agricultural states while they are vastly different. For example, in Iowa there is more rain, rivers, and aquifers, while in comparison, California is quite dry, has lowered water tables, and depends on snowmelt. They also have completely different exports. Iowa, like Delaware, exports mostly corn, soybeans, and meat (in this case beef and pork). California, on the other hand, exports mostly horticulture crops, milk & cream, and almonds. From this, we can really notice how climate and soils affect what can be produced some place, even with the use of fertilizers, chemicals, and GMOs. Technology is a major factor but the climate, soils, and diseases will usually rule what can be planted, produced, and sold.

Ed Kee’s Lecture on Delaware

As a Pre-veterinary and Animal Biosciences/ Agriculture and Natural Resources double major with a minor in environmental humanities, I feel as though I have learned plenty about farming and how it works, but I have yet to really hear statistics or specifics relative to Delaware. Ed Kee’s lecture shed some light on Delaware farming and farming in general for me. For example, I didn’t know 99% of farms were family owned or that 40% of Delaware was farms. Not only that but we can reach such a large percent of the population in a decent about of time. It’s amazing to think of all the food we must be able to produce and sell to people to satiate them. I think that is an important factor to think about as the population grows and I wonder what is being done to even further this development. I feel as that Delaware will become a very important player as we attempt to feed more people as we have 40% of the state as agriculture and 24% of it is preserved, as well as being so close to such a large percent of the population.

Michele Walfred’s lecture

Michele Walfred’s lecture was both funny and informative. I really appreciated this lecture as it tied in many practical aspects that can be used in everyday life and into the future. I found this lecture the most beneficial thus far as it will be helpful for getting into vet schools, as I am sure they are doing background research on their applicants. Not only this but it will be beneficial for any internships of jobs I apply to in the coming future. It also helped to reinforce information we already know but tend to ignore/ forget about such as putting our phones away during dinner or conversations, focusing on other people, and being polite and respectful in different manners. I think we often tend to forget about those things as more technology is created, and we start to become less social. I hope to have more lecture like these in the future.