Category Archives: Issues and Controversies

Mark Lyans Video

Mark Lyans help found the anti-GMO champaign back in 1995. He believed that GMOS would increase the use of chemicals, that they only benefited the big companies, that they robbed farmers of their seed, and that it was dangerous. However, as he wrote his books, he changed his mind. As he travelled around the world writing about climate change, he wanted scientific data to back up his research. So he learned how to read scientific journals and informed the world about climate change. However, he had some back lash from people who didn’t believe him to which he said “I have science to back this up”. A couple books later, someone finally called Mark out on his hypo-criticism saying something along the lines of “You call yourself an environmentalist as you lecture about climate change but you don’t agree with the use of GMOs.”

So, Mark did some research and found out that everything he believed before was untrue. It turns out that GMOs actually decrease the use of pesticides because they are modified to be able to fend for themselves, GMOs are beneficial to the companies and to farmers, that GMOs may or may not rob seed but the seed farmers are already getting does that anyway so it doesn’t make a difference, and that GMOs are actually safer than mutagenesis. Mark also found that there has never been an incident where GMOs hurt someone, however many people have gotten sick from organic foods.

Mark realized that without GMOs, there would be no way to feed our growing population without wasting all of our resources and, being an environmentalist, that is against his morals. GMOs help conserve land and water while still producing high yields and without have to cut down more trees. They also reduce runoff of chemicals because less have to be applied.

For all of the reasons that Mark mentioned in his video about why he changed his mind about GMOs are the same reasons why I have been a fan of GMOs since I was a kid. We cannot feed the world by 2050 on just organic. Organic is a niche that has greta benefits but it is not sustainable. We need to be able to have GMOs and organics live together peacefully or else, quite frankly, a lot of people will die whether it be from malnutrition and disease or from depleting our resources. I try to talk to nonbelievers about GMOs in the hopes that they will see that we need GMOs around. You can eat whatever you want, but you need to realize that your way of living can’t be for everyone.

James Adkins Discusses Irrigation Systems with University of Delaware Students

James Adkins visited the University of Delaware to give an overview of Irrigation systems used across the world. His guest lecture filled the students in on important features and systems of irrigation. It was interesting to  learn some old and foreign ways of the process, with the addition of modern technology used in the United States. Tripods and related technology is currently what many farmers use. It is not the most efficient  when it come to water run-off, and it does a good job at getting the land watered. Another method involves drip pipes. These pipes can be installed into the land and waters the soil when needed. As Dr. Isaacs let on, this option is very time consuming and labor-intensive, so it can be a burden for farms with larger acreage. The next things to hit the scene included GPS and Drone technology. In our lifetime,  James Adkins predicts almost everything “irrigation” will be automated. Yet another intriguing guest lecture, and another avenue for CANR students to look for employment.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly about Food Labeling

Food Labeling has been a hot topic in recent years, with extremists and protestors on either side of argument. Neither side ever seems to want to listen to the other, and this leads to distrust and miscommunication. Food labeling sounds like a simple request- label what ingredients are in our food, so that we can make a conscious decision about our food choices and health outcomes. Food labeling can also aid those who have allergies or specific food regulations and restrictions. However, food labeling can be destructive and have negative impacts on farmers and the food industry as a whole. Because of the recent craze regarding GMOs, and organic food products, food labeling unnecessarily can mislead consumers and cost farmers money. Because there is controversy about GMOs, and a lack of education and understanding of them by the general public, food marketers and behavioral psychologists can use GMOs and their “buzz” to sway consumers into buying certain products over others. Something labeled GMO free, does not mean that something without a label has GMOs in it. This misguidance leads to not only uneducated decisions, but economically irresponsible decisions. Only 2% of the population are farmers, and if they cannot provide for their family, the entire agricultural system can collapse.

GMO Food Labels

States such as Vermont are demanding that foods now be labeled as to whether or not they contain GMO’s; this has been a controversial debate the affects many parties such as farmers, food companies, and consumers. Many consumers want these labels although studies have shown many people are still confused about what GMO’s are and many aren’t aware that non GMO foods still contain genes. Though there is no evidence to support the claim that GMO foods cause harm, many consumers are against them or are skeptical, therefore labeling everything that is a GM food or not could hurt food companies. The companies don’t want people to see the label and assume their not safe or not as healthy. Many are also under the assumption that non GMO means it is also organic, healthier, and tastes better, although none are true. If trends begin to lean more to non GMO it could hurt the farmers that don’t have the money or resources to switch. However food labeling does help consumers make decisions that aligns with their personal beliefs and preferences. This could lead to a stronger trust between producers and consumers because they feel more informed. This could also lead to niche markets, which in many cases consumers will pay more for.

LABELING: What’s in my food?

The discussion of what to and what not to label is very controversial. There are many positive and negatives about labeling to the farmers, the public and the businesses.

As a fourth generation farmer myself, I believe that labeling promotes and hurts the agriculture industry. It hurts our industry by making consumers believe that without the label, it is not qualified. For example by adding a label that says “no added hormones” on a chicken breast, people believe that some ccommercially grown birds have hormones added in them. But since 1960’s the Food and Drug Administration put a regulation on the industry and we have not been able to use hormones on any bird commercially raised since then. Yet, the positive is that labeling allows farmers to be transparent in their practices.


For the public, labeling positively impacts them by allowing them to know what is in their food. It also helps with those who have allergies because they know what to avoid without having to do research themselves. But negatively the consumers are hurt because they are misguided with the labels. An example is have gluten free water or non-GMO bacon. Both of these obviously cannot contain that ingredient, but our consumers are uneducated about where their food comes from and what it takes to produce that product.

Some businesses truly take advantage of labeling. They know that the public is interested in being healthy, local, fresh, and much more. Therefore, they over label their item to grab the consumer’s attention, and once that consumer buys their product once, they typically will keep buying it. However, labeling restrictions that people are encouraging, such a labeling GMO or non-GMO on everything produced will hurt an industry. This will hurt them by billions of dollars, simply by the packaging.

I personally believe that labeling may be necessary for some labels, but I believe over labeling should be illegal as it is a marketing gimmick to consumers. With that in mind, I believe consumers should be required to take an agriculture class and learn more about their food, therefore they can be aware about what contains gluten and GMO’s for example as well as the practices farmers do to grow a safe and sustainable product.

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 Guest Lecture

Dave Mayonado gave a great lecture about agriculture and one of the most controversial companies around, Monsanto, where he is a technology development representative.  He talked a lot about GM crops and biotechnology, which is huge in todays politics and public perception. He explained how safe, but also necessary gmo’s are in todays agriculture. Many people don’t know exactly what gmo’s are, or the good they do, such as lower pesticide application rates. Many crops are now being modified by “silencing genes”. Monsanto became successful early because of cell biology research starting in 1972 and round-up ready crops in 1996. Monsanto has many seed brands such as Asgrow, DeKalb, Channel, and Hubner seed. Monsanto has the fewest employees compared to other agricultural companies, but has made many more advances in technology. Annually, Monsanto invests 1 billion+ in research and development, 400 facilities and 60 countries, and $14.86 billion is sales in 2013. It was a great experience to hear Dave Mayondao’s lecture and to learn more about such a controversial company.

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.

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.

Guest Speaker: Dan Severson

Dan Severson made several compelling points throughout his guest lecture. My favorite aspect of his lecture was the discussion of family farming. The general public has a misconception about factory farming vs. family farming. Most of the country does not know that the vast majority (96%) of farms are family owned, even if they are quite large. Dan Severson took it a step further, and explained what it would take to make a living off of a farm. He dove into facts regarding meat consumption per capita, family income and food costs, and the actual percentage of farmers there are countrywide (2%). Dan Severson explained how agriculture is such a difficult business to thrive in. It depends on the weather, the market, and the technology available. Farming is expensive, labor intensive, and difficult to perfect. I enjoyed how he explained in details different categories of farming such as poultry, beef, sheep, and dairy. The break down helped me be able to visualize every day responsibilities and challenges that these farmers face. I appreciate having heard Dan Severson speak!

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 – 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.



Poultry Farm Visit

When I first heard that we were going to be taking a field trip to an organic poultry farm I was very standoff-ish. Personally I do not agree with organic for many reasons. However when listening to Ms. Cartanza I was pleasantly surprised. She explained that the practices outlined in the organic guidelines are basically unnecessary because for the most part the chickens do not take advantage of theses organic specific practices. Which furthered my opinion on the nature of organic operations. Furthermore I was surprised by the condition of the chicken houses, they were very pleasant. The temperature was very comfortable, the noise level was low, and the smell was more then bearable; the chickens seemed to be very content with their living conditions. Which is why I was a little bothered by the fact that she cannot allow anyone to take pictures while in the chicken house for fear that they’ll negatively misconstrue what are actually very nice living conditions, in order to further their own agenda.