Feeling Detached from Food Production? Blame Jethro Tull

Many consumers today feel out of touch with how their food is produced and are disturbed by a lot of what they hear about it through their social networks or other sources of information. If it is necessary to assign fault for this phenomenon, I think we could blame Jethro Tull. Jethro Tull!? No, I don’t mean the 70s rock band led by flautist Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre, I mean the early 18th century agronomist and inventor named Jethro Tull  (the two Jethros did; however, have similar hair styles).

arctic apple vs regular crop

A Misplaced Concern about an Apple

As a consumer and as an agricultural scientist, I’m looking forward to the introduction of the Arctic® apple. It is possibly nearing approval by regulators in the US and Canada which could mean that supplies might finally be available in a few more years.  These apples could give consumers the possibility of buying apples that maintain their flavor, appearance and vitamin content after cutting, and which can also be used to make beautiful dried apple slices without the need for sulfites (something that can be a problem for some people).  This is an excellent example of how plant biotechnology can provide direct consumer benefits. The Arctic® apple “works” through a mechanism called “RNAi.” That is a way to “turn off” a gene – in this case the genes for the enzymes that cause apples to brown when cut.  RNAi is a common, natural means of genetic regulation in plants, animals,


Don’t believe what Dr. Oz is saying about an agricultural herbicide

Television personality Dr Oz has released a video which talks about an agricultural product called Enlist Duo.  Virtually nothing in this video is presented accurately.  It is a prime example of fear-mongering around the issues of “GMOs” and pesticides.  I’d like to respond, point by point, to what it says that is not true or misleading.  Dr Oz’s statements/image descriptions will be in red: “The EPA is on the brink of approving a brand new toxic pesticide you don’t know about.” The product in question, Enlist Duo is a combination of two very old herbicide products:  2,4-D and glyphosate. A great many consumers do know about these materials because they have been approved for homeowner use for decades and are common ingredients in products available at any neighborhood gardening center.  These chemicals are still approved for use in more than 70 countries around the world and for use in high


Do GMO crops “foster monocultures?”

Do GMO crops “foster monoculture?” This is a frequent criticism of modern agriculture. I have three problems with it: “Monoculture” isn’t the right term to use to describe the relevant issues – its really about a limited crop rotation History and economics are the drivers behind this phenomenon, not crop biotechnology The solutions – to the extent that they are needed – are not what most critics seem to imagine The Corn Belt of the Midwestern US, is a multi-million acre farming region almost entirely dominated by just two crops – corn and soybeans.  This phenomenon is often termed “monoculture,”  but monoculture is merely the practical approach of growing a single crop in a given field.  The opposite of monoculture is “polyculture” and it is entirely impractical for even minimally mechanized farming. The Corn Belt is more accurately described as an example of a “limited crop rotation.” The typical pattern