The Frustrating Lot Of The American Sweet Corn Grower

We Americans love sweet corn – our uniquely national vegetable.   We consume ~9 lbs of sweet corn per person per year (see how that compares to other vegetables in the graph above).  The farmers that grow this crop for us do so on a much more local basis than for most fruit or vegetable crops.  There are significant sweet corn acres in 24 states and a total of >260,000 acres nation-wide for the fresh market and >300,000 for canned and frozen corn (see graph below). Sweet corn can be difficult to grow for many reasons, and is often sprayed with insecticides. A biotech solution to this problem exists, but it is under-utilized, in part, due to campaigns by anti-GMO activists. In the end, the people most hurt by this are the American sweet corn growers.

A Time Capsule of Local Seeds

A few weeks ago, the new student union at UW-Madison announced that they would be accepting contributions for a time capsule. To be assembled and sealed for the first birthday of the Union South’s grand opening, it would remain sealed until its 50th in 2061. I’ve been to the new Union many times with friends and fellow grad students for some R&R, so I was interested to make an entry. I thought, if I wanted to put something in a 49-year time capsule, what would it be? Good time capsule contents are small, contain a lot of information, and represent the time period when they are sealed up. Naturally, as a plant geneticist, I thought that seeds would be perfect. Since I know a bunch of plant breeders, I decided to ask if any would be willing to contribute some seeds that they have bred?

Way Too Much Angst About GMO Crops

From what I read on various blogs and comment streams, there is way too much angst out there about GMO crops. Too much angst because every significant panel of scientists that has reviewed this technology has concluded that it is as safe as any other domesticated food crop.  Too much angst because the reality is that only a small number of crop species will ever be genetically engineered for commercial use.  There are four main reasons why this is the case: 1.  Brand protectionism 2.  Unfavorable economics 3.  Other ways to achieve the same goals, and 4.  Anti-GMO activism