What are Open Source Seeds?

by Jeffrey Schad, Art major

The University of Wisconsin – Madison is selling pre-orders for open-source seeds beginning April 22, 2014, or as the date might be more widely known, Earth Day.  These seeds are open for anyone to use, replant, or pass on to anyone.  They are unpatented seeds that can be used for breeding.

The main focus is to let farmers and breeders dictate how they use the seeds they purchase again.  These seeds are meant to be an outlet for farmers and researchers to not have to go through the lengthy and expensive process of having to buy seeds year after year from a company that has patents for the seeds.  All of the seeds sold are certified organic.

The University of Wisconsin – Madison has already released 29 different varieties of crops for breeders and famers to freely use:

> Read story

This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Right to Know or Right to Pay?
“Genetic Engineering” Labeling Controversy

By: Michelle King, Community Leadership major

Ever since the development of genetically engineered (GE) crops, there have been major debates over the risks and benefits of food products made with the new biotechnology methods. After more Americans found out biotechnology was being used with some of our major crops, they began to demand the information labeled on the products in the stores.

“We have a Right to Know What’s in our Food!” This phrase, used by people all over America who are “for” labeling, like those from LabelGMOs.org, portrays their true reasoning as to why they think GE foods need to be labeled. This right has more to do with than just their freedom. It has to do with human health, religious demands and ethical motives as well.

“The cost of labeling involves far more than the paper and ink to print the actual label!” Not everyone in America, like Monsanto, agrees with the labeling and majority of people agree with this phrase dealing with the extra cost of the labeling. These Americans don’t want the right to pay for these labels which they feel will just bring extra worry about the food they are eating, which shouldn’t have any worry because they have been tested and approved by FDA and USDA.

The bottom line is it’s the consumer’s choice on whether they eat GE foods or not. If Americans really want their food labeled, then fight for it in your local and state government!

If it doesn’t matter to you but you don’t want to eat GE foods then simply buy certified organic products!  (USDA Organic Agriculture)

And finally if you don’t care about either the labeling issue or the fact there are GE products in your food, then keep on eating!

Just do your research if you are a concerned consumer and really determine if you would rather have the right to know or the right to pay when it comes to labeling GE foods!

More info
OSU Extension Ohioline
> The Impact on Human Health of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Foods (pdf)

Colorado State Extension> Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods

This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Plants in Space Have Down to Earth Applications

ambria smallBy Ambria Small, Plant Health Management major

Agriculture has made leaps and bounds over the past few thousand years. From domestication to genetic modification, from weed management to drones scouting for apple scab, the boundaries of agriculture has never been so broad. Now, food-production systems are meeting a new frontier. The private spaceflight company, SpaceX, launched their Dragon capsule in April. Within it is a very special project that they call “Veggie” containing living “Outredgeous” lettuce plants.

The “Veggie”, or Veg-01, is not the first of its kind. The Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems, partnered with Utah State University, has had Lada (their miniature greenhouse) in orbit since 2002. Since its start, Lada has proven species of peas, lettuce, and wheat safe to eat. Why is this important?

Eventually, manned space missions will get longer, and astronauts will need to become self-dependent. SpaceX is initiating plans to have a space colony on Mars in the 2030’s, and within the blueprints are greenhouse units. As well as improving conditions in space, the research can have massive impacts for agriculture on Earth.

plants on international space stationBy 2050, the human population is projected to be 9 billion strong, which will demand a 70% more food. The research done on plant water and nutrient use efficiency will improve land use efficiency back on Earth. Questions regarding crops plants’ most basic needs will be answered by taking plants into an environment where we can only afford to give them the basics.

I’m a senior at OSU,  majoring in Plant Health Management, and representing the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Global issues of hunger can be solved through the space programs, by focusing research on plant-microbe symbiosis, efficient water and nutrient application, and applying new technology such as transgenics. Agriculture has the impossible task of more than doubling its output in a world of limited supplies, and I hope to aid in this goal.

Veggie Plant Growth System on the International Space Station > More info

This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor

Green-Revolution Agriculture: Centralizing Wealth and Land for Over Fifty Years

by Brewster Frusher, BS Agriculture – Sustainable Plant Systems 2014

I want to have a small farm of my own: this month, I completed a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in sustainable agriculture; I have no aversion to rising before the sun and falling after it; I have had a job throughout my time in school and have farmed the last two summers. Despite my efforts, my dream of having my own farm seems more and more like a fantasy.

Like most humans, I was not born into a family with wealth or land. When I hear fellow students talk about their family’s 500, 1000, 2000 acres of soy and corn, I become frustrated. Not at them or their families necessarily, but at the system that has contributed to this centralization of wealth and land.

Like all expensive innovations, Green-Revolution technologies such as Genetically Modified (GM) seed, chemical inputs and the fuel needed to operate over large tracts of land, have centralized wealth and land holdings while further marginalizing the less fortunate. Those who have the money to adopt new technologies see greater profits and expand their land holdings to further increase production and wealth. Those not born into wealth are left out as land prices increase.

Green-revolution technologies incentivize large-scale monocultures and mechanization. These inherent characteristics of the Green Revolution leave our food supply vulnerable to both disease and increases in the price of energy, respectively. It is the dependency on a smaller number of farmers, crops and energy sources that necessitate a change in our food system.

Supporting smaller, local, more diversified farms will lead to an increasing number of smaller, local, more diversified farms, building a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable food system.  The article linked below examines some of these issues at the global scale.


This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor

Norman Borlaug Statue in the U.S. Capitol

Norman Borlaug, plant pathologist, Father of the Green Revolution and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, was honored with a statue in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.  He’s also known as “the man who fed the world” for the development of high-yielding, disease-resistant wheat that vastly improved wheat production in Mexico, India and the U.S.

The statue of Borlaug, an Iowa native, was unveiled on March 25, 2014, what would have been his 100th birthday. The right side of the statue’s pedestal reads, “The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives.”

His legacy continues through several foundations that continue to provide education and research on crop improvement.

Read More
Biography > National Statuary


Where there are plants, there are plant diseases


Plant diseases impact all countries on all continents, including Antarctica.  For the Celebration of Nations event in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, I placed several news headlines on a world map to convey the global scope of plant pathology.

Scanning the headlines, many people were surprised – and concerned. Even plant pathologists were impacted by all of the headlines in one place, on one world map.  And this is a very short list.

We were honored to receive the “Most Educational Display” award at the event for this display.  My colleagues suggested that this is a good visual way to get the message out about the importance of plant pathology, and so I choose this blog post as a way to start.  Yes! Coffee, chocolate, bananas, oranges . . .  wheat, rice, corn and more – they are all on the list.

Read more
Tackle Fungal Forces to Save Crops, Forests and Endangered Animals > Science Daily
American Phytopathological Society on Twitter > News


Valentine’s Day: Think Flowers . . .
and Invasive Pests

Valentine’s Day is a busy time for many businesses, but an article from Our Amazing Planet (LiveScience) reminds us that it’s also a busy time for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.  You might be surprised to learn that most cut flowers in the U.S. are imported, largely from South and Central America, and that Miami is the point of entry for the bulk of fresh cut flower shipments.

Inspectors serve as an important line of defense, examining incoming plant shipments for pests and disease pathogens. If something harmful should hitchhike its way into the U.S., it could establish a new “home” here and damage crops and animals as well as the environment.  In the U.S. alone, invasive species have an economic impact upwards of $100 billion (USDA).

Read the original article >
Stop and Frisk the Roses: Customs Agents Eye Valetines Flowers For Pests

Read more > invasivespecies.gov