Back to Blogging about Science and the Food System

Readers of my blog (Terry Etherton Blog on Biotechnology) are aware that my last blog was posted in December 2011.  I had blogged since 2006 and got to the “spot” where I felt the need to take a break.  On the topics I was writing about, there was the reality that many issues that emerged were similar to topics I had addressed previously.  The phenomenon of “what goes around, comes around” was evident.

Having elected to “unplug” from social media has been cathartic , and I am ready to resume blogging.   To use my blog as a forum to present my views about important issues (the spectrum of these is presented in the Categories list on the right side of the page) that confront the public.

As I have shared previously, my perspective is that application of science is important  to discover and develop new biotechnologies and technologies that in the future will help feed a growing world. And do so in a way that provides safe and wholesome foods.

Standby…the next blog will be posted the week of December 2.


Student Blogs – AN SC 110S: Animal Biotechnology and Society (First-Year Seminar Course)

Terry D. Etherton


One objective of my blog is to provide a public forum for presenting science-based facts about numerous issues that relate broadly to the use of biotechnologies and technologies for food production.  In the spirit of my blog being a public forum, students in a first-year seminar course I taught this Fall (Animal Science 110S: Animal Biotechnology and Society) had to write a short blog about some aspect of biotechnology and agriculture.

My objective was for the students to learn about biotechnology AND engage in a learning activity about communicating science to society.  I shared with the students that writing a blog would be a terrific learning experience about communicating science.  You will be the “judge” of how well they did this.   Continue reading Student Blogs – AN SC 110S: Animal Biotechnology and Society (First-Year Seminar Course)

BASF Farm Perspectives Study Shows Strong Agreement between Farmers and Consumers

LUDWIGSHAFEN, GERMANY, November 8, 2011 – Consumers’ interest in agriculture and personal respect for farmers is high, even in countries where less than two percent of the population works in agriculture, according to the BASF Farm Perspectives Study, which surveyed 1,800 farmers and 6,000 consumers. Yet farmers and consumers also agree that farmers’ reputations remain low. The study, which outlines the way farmers and consumers view the farming profession, its challenges and its support network, revealed surprisingly strong agreement on major issues, including the role of farmers and the major challenges farmers are facing in the 21st century. Continue reading BASF Farm Perspectives Study Shows Strong Agreement between Farmers and Consumers

Here a Sustainable Farm, There a Sustainable Farm – What’s Going On?

Terry D. Etherton

This article was first published on the IFIC Food Insight Blog on November 4, 2011.

Sustainable is a popular word these days in conversations about the practices used to produce our food.  The word is used and misused extensively.

I have asked many folks what sustainable food production means.  The answers are diverse, and astonishing in some instances.  Relative the latter, some convey that sustainable food production is the only “way” and that unsustainable agriculture doesn’t work.  The latter response is more than puzzling to me.  If the business is not economically sustainable then it is unsustainable. Continue reading Here a Sustainable Farm, There a Sustainable Farm – What’s Going On?

The Need for Food Biotechnology

Terry D. Etherton

The public discussion about the need for adequate food is a luxury that well-fed people in developed countries can afford.  But in developing countries where the population is growing while the supply of farmland shrinks, people are grappling with a much thornier and higher-stakes dilemma.  Unless they can grow more food on less land, they may not have enough to eat.  The scale of this is already daunting – more than 1 billion individuals in the world go to bed each night hungry. Continue reading The Need for Food Biotechnology

Biotech Firms Warn EU over Pace of GM Crop Approvals

By Charlie Dunmore

BRUSSELS | Tue Oct 11, 2011

(Reuters) – Europe’s biotechnology industry has warned the European Commission that agricultural imports vital to EU food security are increasingly being put at risk, due to the slow pace of the bloc’s approval system for genetically modified (GM) crops.

In a report to be presented to EU policymakers on Tuesday, biotech association EuropaBio said the speed of GM crop authorizations in Europe is slowing — even as governments worldwide seek to step up the pace of their approvals.

“The EU authorization process for GM products takes substantially longer than comparable systems, despite the fact that government processes around the world to assess the safety and impact of GM products are essentially the same,” it said. Continue reading Biotech Firms Warn EU over Pace of GM Crop Approvals

God and Science

Terry D. Etherton

Ag Progress Days (APD) was held a few weeks ago at Penn State.  Ag Progress Days is a 3-day event that is hosted by the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University. Typically, APD attracts about 50,000 attendees (for additional insights into what APD is, please see: How I Spent a Summer Day at Penn State’s Ag Progress Days).

This year, the College hosted a program that involved short presentations by various Penn State employees about a variety of scientific topics and agriculture.  I was invited to speak about Biotechnology in the Barnyard…a topic near and dear to my heart.  An important aspect of my talk addressed the issue of how are we going to feed a growing world population?  I believe that the development and application of science will play a role in trying to feed the world in the future.  While I have given versions of this talk countless times over the past 30 years, this presentation, actually the question and answer session, turned out to be very different. Continue reading God and Science

In the Pursuit of Communicating Science

Terry D. Etherton

I have  spent about 30 years  traveling down the “road” of trying to communicate  science to the public.  It has been an interesting journey.  I launched  my blog,  Terry Etherton Blog on Biotechnology, in 2006 for many reasons, including the idea of  providing science-based facts for consumers about many public discussions around food biotechnology in which activists and activist groups try to scare consumers.

During this journey, I have come to appreciate the tremendous need for scientists to become more proactive in communicating science.  Specifically, the scientific community needs to be much better at conveying what they do and how  science and technology benefit consumers.  I have written about this, most recently in Please Explain:  Training Scientists to be Better Communicators imploring scientists to get involved.

In my travels down this “road”, I have become sensitized to the issue of how is the  information I present  being “heard” by the audience.  This can be a real adventure, especially when some in the “audience” share “they don’t believe the message(s)” or messenger (i.e., me). This raises the interesting question of what to do? Continue reading In the Pursuit of Communicating Science

Food Safety – Then and Now

Terry D. Etherton

Disease outbreaks that originate from consumption of food attract great media attention, and create concerns for many in society…for good reason. The recent outbreak of Escherichia coli (E. coli) in Europe is a good example of this and the societal problems that ensue.  As of July 26, 2011, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control had reported 3900 confirmed or probable E. coli cases including 46 deaths from the recent E.coli outbreak in Europe.  The media attention that a disease outbreak like this causes is staggering!

Continue reading Food Safety – Then and Now