Tag Archives: GMO

Brian Scott: I Occupy Our Food Suppy Everyday

This is hands down one of my favorite blog posts done on the topic of GMO’s and Farmers. There is so much information that is given to us as “fact” by people that have never bought seed or farmed commercially. I love that Brian is so trasparent and so willing to share his thoughts with us! Thank you Brian!

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Field Trip: Monsanto and Tomatoes

Tomatoes have a special place in my heart. I’m not a huge fan of the actual fruit anymore (the reason why is coming up), but I love all things derived from tomatoes – sauces, salsas, ketchup. And I love to grow the plant. I think I love them because one of my most cherished childhood memories is about garden fresh tomatoes. My grandfather, or Papa, had a pretty amazing green thumb; his garden remains legendary in my mind.

Pretty heirlooms!

When I was little, it was a big deal to spend the night at my town Grandparents. Grandma and Papa spoiled us with Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes in the morning and cable (we didn’t get more than four channels until I was in high school, country livin!). After dinner, it was a big deal for Papa and me to head out to his garden to water, harvest his vegetables and pick tomato worms.

As little five-year old me was searching for those awful tomato worms, I remember telling Papa that I didn’t like tomatoes because “they were gross”. At some point during my little life I must have eaten off-season, store tomatoes and decided all tomatoes were like that. Papa gently picked some ripe cherry tomatoes off his vines and told me to eat one. Surprisingly, I did. And it was glorious. I remember shoving those little jewels in my mouth as fast as I could, being totally surprised at the sweet, warm burst in my mouth, it was like candy. I did that until I threw up. What can I say; I’ve never been good with moderation.

Every time I see a tomato plant, I remember my Papa and his warm cherry tomatoes. It’s a very happy memory. I think that memory is why my favorite part of my Monsanto tour was learning about tomatoes.

The tomato rows at Monsanto's farm. I wanted to frolic through them. But I restrained myself. Barely

The tomato rows at Monsanto’s farm. I wanted to frolic through them. But I restrained myself. Barely.

My field trip to Monsanto left me overwhelmed, I think I caught a really bad case of agnerditis while I was there. Monsanto was fascinating, it was like taking a plant science, a sociology, and a economics class all in one day. I loved it! Unfortunately, I have a mild case of writer’s block when it comes to writing about our day there, I learned so much! However, I am fighting it! Because I think it is important to talk about GMO’s, technology and Monsanto with an open mind.

Talking plant breeding with the actual plant breeders. No big deal or anything. Nope, not at all.

Learning about tomato breeding from actual tomato breeders! Nope, not a big deal. Not at all. (OMG IT WAS SO COOL)

Doug the Tomato Dude was our tour guide for the tomato portion of our tour. He was passionate about his tomatoes! By the time he left us, I wanted to start researching tomatoes too. He made it sound so interesting, and it is! He told us his passion for growing things came early (something I totally identify with), he grew garden peas as a kid. His fresh garden peas tasted nothing like canned peas – and there you go – inspiration comes from the simplest things!

Learning from the master....

Learning from the expert!

Doug is working on a breeding project where he is using various naturally-occurring genes to improve heirloom tomatoes! He explained that there are three natural color mutations in the heirloom realm, tiger stripe, purple and a bi-color (like Rainbow). Working with these three mutations he can breed tomatoes with different levels of acidity, sugars, and volatiles (what you smell) . Something for everyone!

Doug’s goal is to make tomatoes that taste as good or better than existing heirlooms while having the level of fruit setting and disease resistance of modern tomatoes. And he wants to find ways so we can have heirloom quality taste much longer than the current seasonal window. In addition to making tomatoes taste better for us consumers he is also using tools from his genetic toolbox to help the farmer by eliminating cracking in the fruit (less waste!) and increased setting of the fruit (more product with less resources!). Doug is using genetic material that is over 60 years old along with some of the new great things he’s found! I think it is amazing that Doug and Monsanto are keeping these old genes alive and in production. Notice that is something you never hear about from the media. This germplasm dates back many decades and is responsible for long-time home garden favorites such as Better Boy, Big Boy, and Early Girl. By combining the past and the present some great things can happen that both preserve flavor for the consumer and add value to the grower.

Grow babies, grow!

Grow babies, grow!

Doug’s tomatoes are fresh market tomatoes, you know, the tomatoes you buy at the store. As I mentioned above, I think many of us are scarred from the tasteless, pretty tomatoes that dominated the store shelves for years. But Doug is changing that! Doug wants to see more heirlooms on the shelves; he wants more variety, more diversity so consumers can have a choice. (Isn’t that just music to your foodie ears? It was to mine!)

Doug mentioned that he loves to eat his own tomatoes, and his family does too. In fact he said he was making his family BLT’s with seedless tomatoes that very night for dinner doesn’t that sound fabulous?

Look at the pretty heirlooms!

More heirlooms, so pretty!!!

The most exciting thing I learned during this portion of my tour was about the seedless tomatoes that have been developed, the Sweet Seedless. My Grandma has diverticulitis, so foods with little seeds, (like tomatoes), hurt her, she actually cannot eat them. This is unfortunate for people like my Grandma, because it can affect her nutrition. I plan on going to over to my Grandma’s house next spring and planting some Sweet Seedless in Papa’s old garden plot, so my Grandma can eat something she loves again. I think my Papa would be super proud of me.

Meeting Doug the Tomato Dude and learning about his work in tomatoes was marvelous. Being an animal science person, it is wonderful for me to learn more about plant science. I was able to make the connection in my head that like cattle, plants often benefit from different breeding techniques. These techniques and technologies are changing agriculture for us farmers and ranchers in the best possible way – we can produce more with less, we can increase the nutritional content of some foods, we can increase diversity, and we can give our consumers more choice! What an amazing time to be involved in agriculture!

If you want to learn more about this I highly recommend checking this blog out http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=7076455123022001652&postID=5115683617599271132. Dr. Folta is one of my favorite experts.

*Also thank you to Janice Person for a couple of the photos in this post!

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Field Trip: Welcome to Monsanto

Yesterday I was able to tour the Monsanto Woodland/Davis vegetable research station. This was exciting to me for a couple of reasons. Number one, I’m an ag nerd, I love to learn about all different kinds of ag, especially about plants! The second reason is I wanted some truth. So much of what I see on the internet about Monsanto is perpetuated by people who learned what they “know” from a movie they saw or book, blog or wiki article they read. Second hand knowledge can have a tendency to be less than factual. I wanted facts.

Right after I signed in and got my name tag (they also gave me a Monsanto pen) I was very excited!

Many friends asked me how I ended up getting to be able to tour Monsanto, some acted like I had to sell my soul or my unborn children. Well, it wasn’t that hard, in fact they couldn’t have been any nicer about arranging this tour. What actually was hard was finding people that wanted to come with me! I asked several non agricultural friends if they wanted to come. Not one accepted. Finally Daniel Taylor stepped up, thanks Daniel!

This tour came about through several friends, one being Janice Person – she is director of Monsanto’s Public Affairs. Janice was kind enough to fly all the way out here to California, so we could meet (we’ve been friends on social media for at least 4 years now). Needless to say I felt pretty special. George Gough and Mark Oppenhuizen were also our tour guides, talk about a smart group of people, I was almost intimidated (I was, but don’t tell)!

So much safety!

The number one first thing that struck me as I walked into the station was safety. There were safety signs, what to do in an emergency sign, number to call if you needed help, I felt very safe and protected. The second thing that I noticed right off was how happy and pleasant all the employees were. These people enjoyed their jobs, they were passionate about them, I had a really hard time keeping myself calm, their joy was contagious! Mark shared with us that scientist come to work for Monsanto because they know Monsanto is on the cutting edge with science and Monsanto works hard to provide them with a creative and supportive working environment. I could see that.

During the course of our tour yesterday, we asked our hosts about their tour policy. I was shocked to find out they will give tours to those who ask. They mentioned giving tours to master gardener clubs, farmers and other organizations. To be honest with you, I was shocked how open everyone was with us. We looked at field trials, greenhouses, laboratories, seed banks and we even got to taste test melon. We asked any question we wanted to, AND I took pictures!!! It was nothing like I imagined.

I have a lot to say and share with you about the tour. But I don’t want to overwhelm you with one huge post, so I’ve decided to write several posts about my tour. Each post will cover something I thought was important, neat or relevant and if you guys have any questions or comments, please ask them and I will try and cover those too.

I learned so much yesterday. It was such a positive and educational experience. I want to thank Janice, George, Mark and all of the other speakers that blew my mind yesterday. I walked away from the tour with a level of excitement toward agriculture that I haven’t felt in a very long time. Science is amazing.

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The Continuing Quest; CN&R

I enjoy learning. I enjoy a challenge. I also LOVE to “stir the pot”  or “push the envelope”. Mainly because this is how I learn best. Getting outside my comfort zone often forces me to think about a subject in a way I never considered before, which usually leads me to a new point of view. This method of learning isn’t always easy for people, but like that Thomas Dewey quote says, “Minds are like parachutes – they only function when open.”

As many of my readers are aware, I’ve been on a quest lately. This quest involves one of our local papers, the Chico News and Review. For as long as I can remember, they have held an “alternative” view about agriculture. Maybe “alternative” isn’t the best word to use, perhaps “negative” would be a better word? Regardless, we are entering our third week of publicly asking CN&R to do their due diligence and report the facts when they talk about agriculture – unfortunately it looks like we are getting the opposite effect.

One of my biggest “beefs” (lol, get it?!), are the sources CN&R use in their paper, in regards to agriculture. They are less then awesome, factual, or science based. For example, I’m willing to bet Farm Sanctuary is not going to provide the best, fact based, and relevant information when it comes to animal agriculture. Same with Grist.com, in all of my many years in agriculture I’ve never once found myself saying to the cowboy next to me, “did you read that well done, fact based article about cattle production in Grist?”

Ms. LaPado's response to Jenny Dewey's (of Chico Locker and Sausage) letter to the editor.

I think a great example of what I am talking about here can be found in this week’s edition of the CN&R. Instead of doing any independent research about the topic, or even verifying the validity of the reported information (you know, like calling the plant that makes LFTB, or interviewing the meat scientists that made themselves available to her), Ms. LaPado regurgitated less than factual information from other media sources. She didn’t even research what LFTB actually looks like, she used a stock picture of mechanically separated meat (MSM), which is chicken. Chickens (poultry) and cows (beef) are two different species, Ms. LaPado.

It’s sad, and I hope I mis-read this, but in a way, I feel like Ms. Lapado’s column tried to “slime” our local butcher shop, Chico Locker and Sausage. This might be a good time to remind Ms. LaPado how supportive Chico Locker is to our local community. Chico Locker has always been very generous with their knowledge and time. In addition to giving demonstrations to our local Weston Price Foundation, they are also incredibly supportive of our local 4-H and FFA groups. They also are one of the few family operated slaughterhouses in our area. Without Chico Locker, this community of local farmers and ranchers would be in a world of pain. My point is, this is a local business that rallies around our community. Trying to portray Chico Locker as the bad guy for providing truthful information to our community, is just wrong and in really poor taste.

The other article that grabbed my attention immediately was about GMO labeling. Well, in addition to a letter to the editor that supports GMO labeling.  California is being threatened with potential legislation that would require labels on food that contain GMO ingredients. The article states that Safeway refused to allow paid signature gatherers to harass their customers. The article didn’t mention that Trader Joe’s did the same thing. Or that food labeled organic is already GMO free. Or that forcing us to label GMO food will make food more expensive. Or that GMO food has been proven safe again and again.

Heck, I even asked the CN&R if they called the manager of Safeway to get their side of the story. And I asked why they didn’t include Trader Joe’s in the article, because they did the same thing. No one responded.

No response, yet.....

Like I mentioned above, we’ve had this little movement going for a couple of weeks now. And it seems to me that the CN&R is enjoying this, it’s like a game to them. They don’t seem to care that beef prices are down, hurting family farmers like me, they don’t seem to care that people are out of jobs because beef plants are closing down. They don’t seem to care that there are repercussions from their actions. That really scares and concerns me.

From Butte County Farm Bureau (another wonderful resource!)

Butte County’s main source of venue is agriculture. We have two agricultural colleges. Hundreds of family farmers and ranchers live, work and die here. So this makes me question – what is behind CN&R’s response?

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