Last Wednesday, David Mayonado gave a guest lecture on agricultural technology, his experiences working for Monsanto, and the current status of the litigation surrounding Round-Up. He discussed the history of agricultural research stations and Cooperative Extension. He also described the events that precipitated significant increases in agricultural production, namely mechanical, chemical, and biological, such as GMO’s. Continuing, he stressed the extensive research conducted on GMO’s, proving that they are safe for consumption.
David provided some insight into the history of Monsanto, describing their rise and eventual acquisition by Bayer. He also told us about his career working for Monsanto. He job often changes, reflecting the change Monsanto has undergone.
In conclusion, David discussed the ongoing litigation surrounding the weed killer Round-Up. Research by almost all organizations on glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Round-Up, suggests that glyphosate is not dangerous to humans in any reasonable amount. The EPA also took action against the state of California when they attempted to pass a bill forcing Round-Up to be labelled as carcinogenic within the state.
In class we had the opportunity to hear Dave Mayonado talk about biotechnology and his experience with Monsanto, and now Bayer. He started out but briefly talking about agricultural practices before we had all this precision agriculture technology and biotechnology. Explaining how land grant universities had the ability to conduct great amounts of research about agriculture. Afterwards he began to dive into how the knowledge of genetics and proteins in a plants genome has created for so many advances in agriculture. The ability for seed companies to insert targeted traits, silence traits, or add traits into a plants DNA allowed for them to start producing seeds that wouldn’t die from glyphosate, withstand drought better, produce higher levels of oil, and much more. This changed the face of agriculture. However, this technology is something that is heavily targeted but anti-GMO activists despite the fact that it is constantly being proven as a safe technology. In being employed with now Bayer, Mayonado has to be an agvocate for such technology, although that may not be formally in his job description.
I thought it was really interesting how Mayonado explained he spends a lot of the time in his job, working with government officials to educate them on this technology. The food and fiber system is quite the platform for political figures but yet a lot of them really have no idea what they are actually talking about. In saying so, I think a lot of people don’t realize that major seed companies have to take many different roles in educating consumers/political figures in order to continue to have successful company. He also talked about how they are constantly having to research, create, and produce new products in order to keep up with the producer and the demands. A big concern with this technology is the development of resistance in pests, so marketing new products so producers have different modes of action is crucial to a biotech company like Bayer. Creation of such products is lengthy, costly process but if done correctly can be very financially rewarding. Clearly, Monsanto/Bayer have been able to do just that.
Mayonado gave a great lecture pertaining to biotechnology and his experience within the company. Although I may not have understand all the technical science in his presentation, the one point that stuck out to me was that he never has the same work day. Things are always changing, and that is innovation something that excites me as a future producer.
I really enjoyed Mr. Mayonado’s lecture he gave on 11-12-18. He talked about Monsanto being bought by Bayer and how it was weird for him after working for Monsanto for 30 years but that it ultimately needed to happen. I learned that mergers happen to make the world more efficient meaning that more product can be produced while also saving money. It reminded me of my agricultural economic classes; if country A can make something for cheaper than country B and country B can make a different product for cheaper than country A, the two countries will trade those products and won’t spend extra money trying to produce it themselves. Monsanto is a huge seed breeding company that uses genetic technology to get the traits they want. I always thought that after I got my PhD that I would want to work for a company like Monsanto and after this guest lecture I definitely want to.
In listening to Dave speak on all that has changed in agriculture and in the company he works for, Bayer, he focused on four main topics as the beginning of that change. This change was based around tools used to control agricultural pest and managing them. The first of these changes was labor. In the beginning of agriculture labor was highly reliant on animals to pull the tools they needed to plow the fields, followed by someone pushing the tools. In order to collect these crops large groups of people, often families, went out to their crops and would pick one plants that were ready to be harvested. In todays world we are heavily reliant on machinery and fewer people in order to harvest crops. The second main step in this change was mechanics. Steel was a main part to this change, as it became more of a reliant for farmers and their families and yields to the increase of agriculture during the early days. This is what evolved the industry to become more reliant on machinery and allowed the industry to begin the era of tractors. The third piece that impacted early agriculture was the use of chemicals, where they would use small molecules in order to aid to the crops. This allowed chemicals to protect the plants and repel the pests that may be ruining or have the potential to ruin a crop. This was also a time point of no till and chemicals greatly affected this. The final piece to impact agriculture pest management was the biological aspect, where we began using things like GMO’s to give us higher yields using less input. This was also a time of CRISPR (where you can isolate a certain gene) and RNAi (when you could shut off certain genes) which greatly impacted the ability for a farmer to produce more food and to gain higher yields, all to benefit the consumer. Without listening to Dave speak on how important these factors became in the field of agriculture, it could be difficult for one to think back on crop production and to realize just how far it has come.
Dave Mayonado works for a company that has come under quite a bit of heat lately through the use og genectic modified organism. Monsanto uses GMO’S to improve field yields by either being able to add or shut off genes in a crop. After a scientific study of GMO’s by scientist, GMO’s were deemed to be just as safe as conventional breeding techniques. Some top products of biotechnology are Roundup Ready, YieldGard, DroughtGard, and Vistive Gold/Plenish. A very interesting topic that Dave covered was gene silencing to control corn root worm. The corn is genetically modified containing a certain type of double stranded RNA in it. Once the root worm ingests the corn the double stranded RNA enters the cells. The cells then defend itself by targeting the gene SNF7, causing the worm to die. Dave mentioned s a take home message that you can never be to educated on your job, staying on top of everything.
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.
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.
Our class was fortunate to have technology development representative David Mayonado lecture about Industry and Agriculture. This lecture was different than most others we have had because it comes from the perspective of someone who has worked his entire career for an agricultural force: Monsanto. Dr. Mayonado made it abundantly clear during his lecture that GMO safety has been proven repeatedly and GM crops are no riskier than conventional options. I found it interesting that companies like Whole Foods and Chipotle employ more people than Monsanto. Dr. Mayonado also described how crops are not only modified, but now specific traits in genes can be manipulated. Imagining traits in a specific crop able to turn on and off like a light switch is truly incredible and certainly seems to be the future of GM crops. Before the semester I was very skeptical of Monsanto due to my lack of knowledge and the companies often demonized public image. Dr. Mayonado’s lecture was able to shed light on what exactly GM crops are and their benefits in a global society.